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Philippe Djian: 37,2° le matin (Betty Blue: the Story of a Passion)

It is sad that this is one of only three Djian’s books available in English but it is good that this is this one of them. The book opens when Zorg, the narrator, a quiet, unassuming handyman, who is secretly writing a novel, meets Betty, who is an attractive, lively, temperamental, uninhibited woman. She proceeds to change his life. When she finds out that he is a writer, she is suddenly very impressed with him and wants him to become an artist, according to her conception of what an artist should be. The decision is forced on him when her behaviour costs him his job and they set off for Paris where Betty tries to get Zorg’s novel published. Most of the novel is taken up with their life together – Betty’s outbursts when a publisher rejects Zorg’s novel, her joy at being pregnant and her gloom when she finds she is not, while Zorg tries to keep things calm, knowing that Betty has made his life worth living but that, eventually, she is going to do something which is going to give him a lot of problems. And, of course, she does. The book works because it tells of a great but disturbed passion – the French have an excellent expression for it – amour fou which translates as mad love – and it works splendidly because of Djian’s wit, because he never lets the action flag and because Betty is such a wonderful literary creation.

Publishing history

First published in French 1995 by Barrault
First published in English 1998 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Translated by Howard Buten