Michel Déon is one of the most acclaimed French writers of the past 50 years, being one of only 40 authors to be dubbed “un immortel” (an immortal) by his peers at the Académie française. Despite having scooped up many prestigious literary prizes in his home country, only one of his more than 50 books has been translated into English. Up until now, that is. With the publication of The Foundling Boy, highly praised by William Boyd and Paul Theroux, many more can now enjoy Déon’s quiet, wryly funny prose and story-telling abilities.
The Foundling Boy is about Jean, brought up by adoptive parents who work for an eccentric and generous man, Antoine, and his wife. Jean acquires Antoine’s sense of adventure. Antoine’s own trips from Normandy through France to the South are described in such vivid detail that this reader’s nostrils flared to the scent of lavender and thyme, the salty smell of the sea, and the Midi sun browning the legs of Antoine’s young mistress, on whom he plies impressionist masterpieces by the likes of Derain before the artists achieve fame.
Jean follows suit with trips to London (where, to his chagrin, his bicycle is made into a Surrealist sculpture) and then through Europe. A delight.