Philip H. Solomon (review date May 1987)
SOURCE: A review of La Moustache, in The French Review, Vol. LX, No. 6, May, 1987, pp. 904-05.
[In the following mixed review of The Mustache, Solomon contends that "Carrère has some difficulty sustaining the premise of his novel—maintaining both the literal and the metaphorical significance of the mustache and its removal."]
La Moustache begins with an apparently trivial event. The protagonist, a Parisian architect, designated in the text simply as il, decides one afternoon to shave off the mustache he has worn for several years. Its removal is intended to tease his wife Agnès, who had jokingly remarked that she would like to see him clean-shaven. The modern reader has come to expect that such innocuous gestures can have catastrophic consequences, and this one is no exception. As the narrator notes "l'ordre du monde avait subi un dérèglement à la fois abominable et discret." The perpetrator of this "criminal" act must somehow restore the order he has inadvertently shattered or be punished. The novel traces the progressive deterioration of the il's sanity as he confronts the disorder occasioned by the removal of his mustache and attempts to repair the damage. Obviously, perhaps too obviously, we are dealing with the intrusion of the absurd into what has hitherto been a well-defined and comfortable bourgeois existence.
Having savored in advance the surprise and confusion he will cause Agnès and their friends once they perceive the absence of his mustache, the il becomes distraught when no reaction takes place. When he finally tells Agnès what he has done, she insists that he never had a mustache. Even the photo on his identity card, which shows him with a mustache, does not convince her. She argues that the mustache has been added with a marking pen and then proceeds to scrape it off with a knife.
(The entire section is 799 words.)