Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 23. September 17, 1968
[Andre Couteaux: Portrait of the Boy as a Young Wolf. Reviewed by Nevil Gibson]
• • •
When Bernard Hautterre reached five his furtherest thoughts were of school. Instead he pondered the lack of a mother who had flirted then flitted with an American soldier when Bernard was uncognisant of his psychological disability. At five, however, he thought it time to give aid and comfort to his father, an unrecognised research biologist of germs and things. He became, in rather uncertain terms, a pimp. It all began when the psychologist explained his latent homosexuality. Bernard didn't understand this, because he loved his father but didn't find other men or boys attractive. He did, however, find beautiful women attractive. Through devious and subteenal methods he managed to get them to live with Papa for an average of three years each. But in France, where 11 per cent practise the national religion, the faithful cannot re-marry without dispensation. Papa wasn't willing to play God games. Besides ne was doing all right without nuptials. Bernard, liberal boy he was, felt this unfair and was sure the Good Lord had better things in mind. And Bernard certainly didn't mind with Helene (a friend's mum), Clotilde (bumped into on the street), and finally Edith (rescued from the grown up wolves in the Bois de Boulogne).
All is bliss after Edith comes to stay: only at the very end do besetting problems arrive when it becomes imperative that Papa and Edith get married. This means dealing with Mother. Bernard had not seen Mother since she left home (and he can't remember that). However, Mother comes to a quick and thankful conclusion, thanks to the micros, and Papa can now safely both bed and wed. The ending, despite rather delicate suspension of credibility, is too pat. The whole thing is wrapped up as if the author had suddenly run out of ideas, which he probably had. The theme—"childhood is the ace of astonishment"—is dealt with unclumsily, without labouring the point. It's refreshing but far from intoxicating. Its charm is wholesome, peripheral, momentary. The characterisation of Bernard is handled with restraint and detached sympathy: he is no child horror despite the rather ridiculous machinations of the plot. The gentle irony is tempting but melts on savouring; it is candy-floss. A nice book for the rather sentimental girl-friend or liberal Mum.
Andre Couteaux: Portrait of the Boy as a Young Wolf (L'Enfant a Femmes). Translated by Barbara Wright, Macdonald, London, 1968. Distributed by Whitcombe and Tombs. 184pp. $2.35. Reviewed by Nevil Gibson.