Five Photos of My Wife

3.18 avg rating
( 38 ratings by GoodReads )
 
9780007291601: Five Photos of My Wife

At eighty, Max Opass is still reeling from the death of his wife a year earlier. His two grown-up children live abroad with their own families, his son in Bolivia, his daughter in Japan: he writes awkwardly to his daughter with the news of his humdrum activities and tells her that he's decided to have his wife's portrait committed to paper or canvas, permanently and posthumously. So, he looks up ?Artists' in the Yellow Pages, picks a few for arbitrary reasons, and calls them up. He asks each if they will paint a portrait of his wife, using his five favourite photographs of her for their sole visual reference. One artist - successful and modish - intimidates him; another - an amateur raising kids by herself - prompts him to pity; a pair of art students baffle him; and a bridge-playing acquaintance turns out to have elderly hots for him. Each encounter, each portrait, is both comic and moving, like Max. As these accumulate, the reader comes to realise that Max's grasp on who his wife really was is not so sure after all. The book oscillates calmly between being amusing and being reflective, and delivers a powerful slow punch at its close.

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Review:

‘Desarthe is a daring and imaginative writer. Through Max Opass, she lets her lucid prose plunder dreams and question the meaning of existence.’
Observer

‘A rare tribute to the love of a wife… Desarthe’s novel, lucidly translated by Adriana Hunter, is delicate, subtle and full of charm.’
Daily Mail

‘Ageing and frailty, both physical and emotinal, are rarely presented with such sheer beauty. Five Photos of My Wife has a limpid, effortless elegance: prose by Chanel.’
Scotland on Sunday

From the Publisher:

Five Photos of My Wife, the first of Agnes Desarthe's books to be translated into English, has been shortlisted for both the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2002 and the Jewish Quarterly Fiction Prize 2002.

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