Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Foam of the Daze by: Boris Vian

Title: Foam of the Daze
Author: Boris Vian
Publisher: Tam Tam Press
Pages: 261
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchase


The definition of Boris Vian: engineer, inventor, chronicler of jazz, trumpet player, poet and novelist, creator of spectacles, lyric writer and singer, and of course pataphysician.

TamTam Books is very proud to announce the upcoming publication of Boris Vian's masterpiece L'Ecume des jours. We are bringing out a new translation by Brian Harper with the full approval of the Vian estate. The English title is Foam of the Daze.

The translation made by Brian Harper takes into account the critical edition of Boris Vian's L'Ecume des jours edited with additional in depth footnotes by Gilbert Pestureau and Michel Rybalka published in France 1994.

L'Ecume des jours (Foam of the Daze) is a jazz fueled Science Fiction story that is both romantic and nihilistic! Vian's novel is an assortment of bittersweet romance, absurdity and the frailty of life. Foam of the Daze is a nimble-fingered masterpiece that is both witty and incredibly moving. It is a story of a wealthy young man Colin and the love of his life Chloe, who develops a water lily in her lung.

The supporting cast includes Chick, an obsessive collector of noted philosopher Jean-Sol Partre's books and stained pants, and Nicolas who is a combination of P.G. Wodehouse's fictional butler Jeeves and the Green Hornet's Kato. The soul of the book is about the nature of life disappearing and loving things intensely as if one was making love on a live grenade!

My thoughts:
1. Boris Vian was 26 years old when he wrote this book. 
2. He wrote it in two days.

If we really need to categorize books, then Foam of the Daze is a love story. A rich, young man named Colin only wants to fall in love. The reason behind this somehow is that his friend Chick has started going out with a girl named Alise. He sees how she loves him and cares for him and wants that for himself as well. Alise is Colin's cook / butler / chauffeur Nicolas' cousin. Anyway, so Colin sees how affectionate Alise is toward Chick, and he thinks, "I want that too!" so he decides to fall in love. And he does fall in love with a young girl names Chloe. They get married with a gorgeous ceremony and are very happy, but then Chloe gets sick. Her sickness is a water lilly that opens in her lungs. The only cure is for her to be surrounded by fresh flowers all day. 

I can hear you going, "water lilly? In the lungs? Pffft." But I'm really not brilliant enough to make this up. And the water lilly opening in Chloe's chest isn't even the weirdest thing in the story. Colin has mice living in his house. It seems as if he couldn't get rid of them so he decided to become friends with them. What came into my when I read this was an oompa-loompa grooming Willy Wonka's hair. Anyway, even when Chloe gets sick there's a mouse keeping her company.

As a result, Colin needs to get a job because fresh flowers are very expensive, and he soon runs out of money. He does find work, but none last very long main due to his belief that human beings aren't born to work. I think we all agree with him on this one. Vian criticizes many similar subjects in this book, both those I understood and those I haven't a clue about. When I was discussing the book with my book club, we all believed that Foam of the Daze was "a book of its time" and there's a lot in it that we can't understand.

I myself also think Vian was somehow under the influence while writing this book. I have no proof that this is true, but how else do you come up with rooms that physically change shape according to the occupant's mood and a piano that forms drinks when you play it? 
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