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Jules and Jim based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Beautifully written, but despite that, I can't overcome the fact that I cannot understand the characters and this leads directly to the lack of sympathy for any of them. The characters are left vague and there's no hints to explain their actions or moods - which is exactly how it is with most of the people you meet and never get to know properly. To put it short: I liked the atmosphere created in the book but it wasn't enough to carry through the whole book.
The film is so beautiful, and so iconic, that the book was almost bound to be a disappointment. As with Deux anglaises..., Truffaut improved the story considerably in tightening it up to fit within his medium. He certainly seems to have lifted the best of Roché's prose.In the book, the sequence of apparently arbitrary, haphazard scenes covering something like twenty years in the lives of the main characters only slowly starts to take shape as a constructed narrative. It isn't easy to work out how much this is a deliberate literary device, and how much it is simply Roché sticking in assorted scenes from real life and then tweaking them a bit to fit the storyline. The back-and-forth between Jim and Kathe in the second half of the book does seem to go on for far too long, somehow. Many of the episodes don't add to our understanding of the characters at all, but just reinforce what we already know about them. On the other hand, the novel is only a little over 200 pages long - it obviously says something about the economy of Roché's style that he manages to present so many scenes in such a short space.As others have said, Jules remains something of an enigma. Jim seems to be the main viewpoint character, with Jules always a rather passive figure in the background. As we get to the end of the book, it starts to appear as though it is Jules who is telling us the story, putting himself in Jim's position, but this is never quite made clear. And there are other odd silences. The First World War, with Jules and Jim fighting on opposite sides, is dismissed in a couple of sentences. Jules is a Jewish, German writer, living in Paris, with property and investments in Germany. All of these facts are explicitly presented to us in the text. They would clearly have had a big effect on what happened to him between the late twenties, when the story ends, and the late fifties, when Roché wrote it. But we are told nothing at all about this. Why does Roché set this up in our minds but not use it? The really big silence in the text, of course, is the nature of the relationship between Jules and Jim. Are they just friends who happen to share a series of women? Are they in love with each other without knowing it? Are we supposed to assume that they have a sexual relationship we're not told about? The only hint we get is one very suggestive sentence about sharing cigars. This can't be accidental, but it might just be a deliberate tease for the overanalytical reader: Roché doesn't seem to be the sort of writer to miss out on the shock value of a salacious plot point, so I think he would have told us about it in so many words if Jules and Jim had had a sexual relationship.Having read both his novels (and seen what Truffaut managed to do with them), I think my conclusion would be that Roché was a good writer, but not a particularly good novelist. His prose style is very agreeable to read, especially in small doses, and it is interesting to read his take on the early years of the century from the perspective of old age (especially from a writer who had lived through the whole modernist movement before he wrote his first novel!), but his characters remain infuriatingly pig-headed. It is curious too, how he can write two rather similar stories, but arbitrarily give one a tragic ending and the other a comic one. Are we supposed to conclude that that goes with a fundamental difference between a man loved by two women and a woman loved by two men?