I first discovered Edmund White almost by accident, through his insightful account of the years spent in Paris, Inside a Pearl. This book is more than an usual travel account or collection of expat short stories, but an extensive investigation into identity and cultural encounters, spiced up with some stories about his love stories.
With this previous lecture fresh in my mind, my reading of The Married Man was at a certain extent hampered because notwithstandingly I can remember episodes about his adventures or people he featured in the Paris memoir. But there is more to the book that this.
First, it seems that every word and sentence are carefully crafted, and the result is a piece of literary work, as perfect as a jewel. Every word is used at its place, without too much fluffy pretentiousness or snobbish references.
Another interesting part of the book deals with the process of redefining identities. The identities in the couple, especially given Julien's heterosexual past, the identities as professionals - Austin as a teacher of humanistic topics in an academic world that couldn't care less, Julien about his architecture profession in France and abroad, the identities of citizens belonging to different cultures and worlds - France versus USA, but also different identities given by the particular time and long-historical frames. All this topics are so dangerous and worned out, the perfect ingredients to produce a stereotypical result that White admirably avoids, by balancing the emotions with intelligence, instead of ending up with verdicts.
It looks like he had the strength and inspiration of an alchemist to filter the good from the unnecessary, using some archetypal French intuition.
Rating: 5-star books