Jean-Philippe Blondelon Tour May 15-28 with
Exposed(fiction) Release date: June 4, 2019 at New Vessel Press 157 pages ISBN: 978-1939931672 Website | Goodreads
A French teacher on the verge of retirement is invited to a glittering opening that showcases the artwork of his former student, who has since become a celebrated painter. This unexpected encounter leads to the older man posing for his portrait. Possibly in the nude. Such personal exposure at close range entails a strange and troubling pact between artist and sitter that prompts both to reevaluate their lives. Blondel, author of the hugely popular novel The 6:41 to Paris, evokes an intimacy of dangerous intensity in a tale marked by profound nostalgia and a reckoning with the past that allows its two characters to move ahead into the future. [provided by the publisher] NB: this is NOT erotica! “Exposed deals with the joys and uncertainties of youth, as well as aging and regret, thwarted friendships and loves, and nostalgia and searching for renewal. It’s beautifully written and sensitively translated from French, highly engaging and accessible to a wide array of readers. It contains no explicit sex or anything that would put off a reader open to the experience of good literature.”
Excerpt from EXPOSED by Jean-Philippe Blondel (New Vessel Press), translated by Alison Anderson.
I didn’t belong there. I wandered through the succession
of rooms, with a glass of overly acidic champagne in
my hand. I looked at the other guests. Their self-confidence,
the way they held their heads. Their facial expressions. They
formed familiar little clusters, burst out laughing, glanced
over at rival groups, occasionally glanced at the canvases,
gushed noisily, turned away, murmured a spicy anecdote or
scathing commentary into the ear of an acolyte, demolishing
the opus they had just praised in the blink of an eye. The men
wore jackets that were self-consciously casual. The women
in little black dresses shrieked with laughter, and regularly
reached up to touch their male partner’s arm or shoulder.
A gallery opening, with all its decorum. In fact, it pretty
much lived up to the stereotypical image I had of such events.
I did not attend this kind of gathering on any regular basis.
In my fifty-eight years on this planet I have not, in the end,
spent much time in the world of visual arts. This was only
the second time I had ever been invited to this sort of occasion.
The first time was over a quarter of a century ago. Back
then I had gone with a friend who was feverishly exhibiting
his work with other local artists. We had hung his paintings
Whereas this evening, of course, was different. The
painter was local, yes, but his fame had spread all the way
to Paris and even abroad. Alexandre Laudin: living proof
that art has no regard for either geographical or social origins—
he was born and grew up in this provincial town, in
a housing development where his parents still lived. But I
imagined him comfortably ensconced in the tenth or eleventh
arrondissement. Bastille, République. Where the pulse
of life beats faster.
Laudin has done the town and its inhabitants proud.
He is our cultural guarantor, the reference we like to slip
into a conversation, just to show that it is not only in Paris
that, etc. His name began to pop up ten years or so ago,
if I remember correctly. Ever more frequent articles in the
local, then regional and national papers. A discreet but steady
ascension. Last week his photograph was on the front page.
To announce this exceptional exhibition, a sort of miniretrospective
of five years of pictorial research. The paintings
would be on display in this gallery for only two weeks before
flying off to Rome, London, or Amsterdam, where admirers
were beginning to grow impatient. But before going global,
Laudin had insisted on this exhibition in his stronghold. The
journalist had emphatically praised his loyalty to his place of
birth. The message was clear: Alexandre Laudin, at least, did
not think he was God’s gift. The opening was on a Friday
evening. A private party. By invitation only. I remember
smiling as I studied Alexandre Laudin’s portrait in the paper.
I hardly recognized him. He didn’t look like the student I
had taught English to, twenty years earlier. I must have had
him in première, but he made no impression on me. I smiled,
the way I did every time I used the verb “to have” to describe
the relation between student and teacher. Monsieur Bichat?
I had him in cinquième. You’re lucky you didn’t have that old
bag Aumont. This is how we define ourselves, us and them.
We belong to each other for a few months. Then we set one
another free again. We forget one another.
Nowadays, of course, I would notice Alexandre Laudin.
On the photographs that appeared in the papers he was staring
at the lens with a hard, almost insolent gaze. He exuded
money and self-regard. Physically, he seemed to have filled
out considerably, whereas I recalled a skinny boy, a scrawny
cat in the corridors of the lycée. He must have become an
ardent member of gyms and spas. With his shoulder-length
hair and three-day stubble he could have been the face of
some advertising campaign for men’s cologne.
ABOUT THE AUTHORJean-Philippe Blondel was born in 1964 in Troyes, France where he lives as an author and English teacher. His novel The 6:41 to Paris has been acclaimed in both the United States and Europe.
ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR
Alison Anderson is a novelist and translator of literature from French. Among the authors she has translated are JMG Le Clézio, Christian Bobin, Muriel Barbery and Amélie Nothomb. She has lived in Northern California and currently lives in a village in Switzerland.
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Exposed is the second book I have read by Jean Philippe Blondel. I have found the writing to be quite different than what I am used to. Though it did take me a bit to get used to, it is quite refreshing and unique to go outside of my comfort zone.
Exposed tells the story of an old English teacher and one of his famous students, who has since become a famous artist. The former student asks the teacher to model for him for a series of some upcoming works. This begins the two reexamine their past, present and future. I enjoyed that part of the story where they both learn how to grow.
I give Exposed four and a half stars. I would recommend this quick read for readers who enjoy reading books involving art culture where they can too learn something about themselves.
Exposed is most definitely worth a read.
I received this book from the publisher. This review is 100% my own honest opinion.