Paul Morand's classic novel "The Man in a Hurry" (originally released in 1941 in French as "L'homme pressé") has the honour of being the first Pushkin Collection titles published in hardcover so I hope you'll excuse me if I start by talking about its design first. The entire Pushkin Collection series is a celebration of all that's good in book design. Their publications are always such things of beauty. These endlessly charming, dainty pieces of literature come together due to them being such lovely paperbacks enriched by French flaps and embossed covers so it is definitely an act of courage on their behalf to change the winning formula. I won't deny that I was really sceptical whether the hardcover will work so well as the paperback and amazingly it does. Partly it is due to jacket that still retains that tactile feel that graced the paperbacks, partly due to the novel itself which heralds the arrival of modern age and sports a fast car. It just works. Now, without any hurry, on to Morand and "The Man in a Hurry"!
Paul Morand is one of the masters of Modernist French prose and is admired by many, including Ezra Pound and Marcel Proust. During his illustrious career he published over 50 works of non-fiction and fiction, few of which have been published by Pushkin Press, also in translation by Euan Cameron. Last of these is "The Allure of Channel", his final work which explored the life and character of Coco Chanel and published the year Morand died. However, "The Man in a Hurry" finds Morand in a different phase of his life though the elements of his latter writings are already evident. "The Man in a Hurry" introduces us to Pierre Niox, a man who simply can't stop. His erratic lifestyle and madcap pace are driving everyone insane, including his manservant, friends and even his cat who all, one by one, eventually abandon him. In a moment of clarity Pierre realises that he's rushing through life, never experiencing any of it for himself and decides to do something about it, if at all possible. His redemption comes in shape of Hedwige. Pierre instantly falls in love and has to learn to slow down or risk losing the most important thing of them all.
I found "The Man in a Hurry" especially interesting because in a way it is exactly opposite of the life today. For Morand, Pierre's mad dashing around was the infuriating sign of the future. It was the time of the progress and people around were getting noticeably faster day by day. For Pierre it is natural but the world can't keep up with him. And yet today it is life itself that is too fast for most of us and the problem is that you often can't slow it down. It's an interesting inversion that struck chord with me, especially when told through ironic and often hilarious Morand's prose. Funnily enough, in one final twist Morand declared that Pierre is based on himself. I hope he eventually learned to slow down.
Review copy provided by Pushkin Press.
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