BOOK REVIEW / In brief: A Double Life - Frederic Raphael: Orion, pounds 14.99

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The Independent Culture
Retired diplomat Guy de Roumegouse is a monster. Cold and clever, he drifts through life far too concerned with his own feelings (or lack of them) to have any for anyone else. His memoirs take us from his youth in wartime France, through his unremarkable career in Buenos Aires, Damascus and Rome, and back to the Perigord. He believes his tragedy lies in the inability to match actions to appetites. If he were such a wise Guy, he would know that maturity relies on desiring that which one can obtain. To put it bluntly, he is a frustrated old queen who will not admit it. A Double Life may be pastiche Proust but it is real Raphael: the aphoristic text, larded with classical allusions and ornate oxymorons, wears its heartless art on its sleeve. To read it is to subject oneself to a lengthy work-out in a mental gym: it is stimulating, exhausting but sterile.