Romain Gary G. MERMIER and F. COHEN - Essay


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Romain Gary's La bonne moitié is a dramatic comedy in two acts; it is a play of the absurd, subtle, tragic and amusing, very much in the vein of Emile Ajar's La vie devant soi, linguistically speaking. The author plays with his culture, with his language and with the syntax, and that precisely because he is in full possession of each.

This is a perfectly balanced work, light and serious, deep and absurd and written with remarkable finesse. Children of executed World War II French Résistance fighters are taken care of by Theo Vanderputte, himself a former member of the Résistance turned informer for the Gestapo. Is this turncoat a traitor or a martyr? How is this half-buffoon and half-tragic hero going to be judged by his peers? According to the number of Germans he killed or to the number of Résistance figures he betrayed? The four adolescent children, next to Theo's duplicity, represent, on the contrary, objectivity, realism and adaptation to the shifting values of a constantly changing world. If they become judges of Theo, they remain lucid; their judgment is without malice or fanaticism. Theo Vanderputte's death is a mixture of justice and pity, and the four children face the future with the dignity and ideals which Luc Martin's father, a companion of the Liberation, has imparted to them.

La bonne moitié is an excellent play, light, mature and well written. The language is particularly interesting and full of surprises.

G. Mermier and F. Cohen, "French: 'La bonne moitié'," in World Literature Today (copyright 1980 by the University of Oklahoma Press), Vol. 54, No. 3, Summer, 1980, p. 406.