The Girl from the Chartreuse By Pierre Péju

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Last-minute disasters can't be planned for, and Pierre Péju's latest novel, translated by Ina Rilke, opens with a particularly horrifying one. On a wet afternoon, Etienne Vollard, driving a vanload of books, knocks down a little girl, Eva. At the hospital he meets Eva's mother, a single parent who longs to escape her responsibilities. Vollard takes over bedside duties, and talks the girl out of her coma, quoting to her from Beckett and Goethe. Language eventually wakes Eva up, but fails to save her. As in all good French fiction, rationalism triumphs over sentimentality.