Home > 2010, 21st Century, Foenkinos David, French Literature, Novel > Towards Beauty by David Foenkinos – does art heal wounds?

Towards Beauty by David Foenkinos – does art heal wounds?

Towards Beauty by David Foenkinos (2018) Original French title: Vers la beauté.

I think I purchased Vers la beauté by David Foenkinos at the Musée d’Orsay bookstore. I was drawn to its cover with the Modigliani picture.

Antoine teaches art at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Lyon. When the book opens, he has taken a leave of absence, fled from Lyon without telling anyone where he went. He got hired as a museum attendant at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. We don’t know why he left so abruptly, just that he’s desperate and doesn’t want to interact with anybody. He just wants to lick his wounds at the museum and hope that the beauty of the paintings surrounding him will heal him. He’s a specialist of Modigliani and he loves to have silent conversations with the portrait of Jeanne Hébuterne.

Mathilde, the HR manager of the museum is intrigued by her new employee. She guesses that he’s wounded and she wants to understand why an art professor would want a job as a museum attendant. Slowly, she manages to break through Antoine’s defenses and we understand that he was already vulnerable after a painful breakup with his long-term girlfriend when a traumatic event happened in Lyon.

In the second part, we switch to Camille’s life and personal drama. Like Antoine, she sought solace in her painting and her art studies.

I can’t tell more about the characters without spoiling the book. Let’s say that both Antoine and Camille try to find hope and a healing balm in art. It is soothing but, in the end, talking to people, letting them in and accepting their help seems the most efficient way of healing one’s wounds.

Foenkinos writes well, his novel has a certain musicality, built out of a clever balance between melancholy, soft irony and musings. It’s a nice book, one you can read in one sitting. It is set in Paris and Lyon, I enjoyed reading about places I knew.

It’s not available in English, yet. Other books by Foenkinos have been translated, like Delicacy.

  1. August 3, 2021 at 6:41 pm

    Foenkinos seems to be quite an art fan. He’s also written that book about Charlotte Salomon, which is very moving indeed.


    • August 4, 2021 at 7:22 am

      He is an art fan and I’d like to read Charlotte as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. August 3, 2021 at 10:12 pm

    This sounds a lovely read. I really like the cover too – if it does get translated I hope they keep the same image.


    • August 4, 2021 at 7:23 am

      It’s a lovely read and I totally agree with you about the cover. I like books with original drawings as a cover.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. August 4, 2021 at 12:44 am

    This sounds lovely. I enjoy fiction about art and artists.


    • August 4, 2021 at 7:25 am

      I think you can read it in French, your French is good enough for his prose and there aren’t any detailed descriptions of paintings with technical vocabulary.

      This one is more about what art brings into our lives but stay tuned, another book about artists is coming soon, Sundborn ou les jours de lumière.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. August 4, 2021 at 1:19 am

    One that I hope gets translated – it sounds very intriguing and right up my street.


    • August 4, 2021 at 7:26 am

      It”ll probably get translated, several of his books have already made it into English.


  5. August 4, 2021 at 3:45 pm

    I checked Foenkinos in Wikipedia. His studies were in Literature and Music, but obviously he knows his painting as well. Also, footnote no. 1 references Book Around the Corner.


    • August 4, 2021 at 9:53 pm

      😀 Yes, this is one of my two mentions on Wikipedia!


  6. buriedinprint
    August 9, 2021 at 6:22 pm

    This sounds like a gentle weekend read. When you do eventually learn about what took him to this place and situation, does the explanation make sense, reflect his need/mood?

    Thinking about museums and Paris reminds me of how much I’ve enjoyed the recent series Lupin (which opens with an exciting scene in that environs): so entertaining.


    • August 10, 2021 at 4:35 pm

      It is a gentle read and yes, eveything falls into place when we understand why he left.

      I haven’t watched Lupin but I’m sure I’d like it too.


      • buriedinprint
        August 10, 2021 at 5:10 pm

        Ohhh, I highly recommend it. It leaves such a hopeful feeling in my heart that I’ve marked it on the to-rewatch list and might well do so by the end of this year (while ignoring other good shows, I’m sure).


        • August 14, 2021 at 4:36 pm

          I need to take the time to watch it.


  1. September 4, 2021 at 9:55 am

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