Summary (Masterplots II: World Fiction Series)
Raymond Queneau’s The Sunday of Life is a bright, cheery work that looks with an ironic distance on the small foibles of ordinary people. The title is taken from a celebrated phrase in Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s discussion of Dutch painting, in which the philosopher speculates that because of their innocence and cheerful spirit, the peasants in Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s painting must be close to the Ideal. Queneau seems to share this belief, which keeps the often-mordant humor of the work from becoming a negative judgment on his simple characters.
The novel opens in a popular quarter of Paris, where “popular” signals a working-class orientation and lack of sophistication. Two sisters, Julia and Chantal, are viewing the street scene from the window of their mother’s haberdashery. Chantal is happily married to Paul Batragra, but Julia’s sharp tongue and shrewish nature have kept her from finding a suitable match, and she is now in her mid-to-late thirties. When they see a handsome soldier walking down the street, Chantal teases her sister that she should marry him. Unknown to Private Valentin Bru, the machinations are already set in motion that will lead to his marriage with Julia.
First, Chantal makes the necessary inquiries at Valentin’s regimental headquarters. Having learned his name and where he is stationed, her husband, Paul, begins the next round of inquiries by tracking Valentin to his favorite cafe where...
(The entire section is 915 words.)
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