‘Most Die Young’ by Camille Bordas


Most Die Young by Camille Bordas, 2017

The magic trick:

Doing a really good job of writing the fundamental actions and speech of each character

Pretty impressive stuff here from an author not yet 30.

The key thing to note would be the combination of big-picture events (terror attacks in Paris) with small-picture concerns (personal relationships and millennial ennui). It’s very well-done, to be sure.

But I’d like to highlight Bordas’s simple ability to write well, as dumb as that might sound. Her characters talk like people talk. They act like people act. She describes action in ways that reflect the way actions are in real life. For example:

“i’m here, about to knock,” I texted Delphine. “don’t be afraid. it’s just me.”

She came to the door before I knocked.

“Do you still keep beers in your vaccine fridge?” I asked.

We made our way to the consult room and Delphine answered my question by opening the black drawer at the bottom of a small refrigerator full of vials.

“Help yourself,” she said.

I don’t know what it is about that interaction, but it just rings really true to me. It’s incredibly simple but vivid. It seems like the basic things that people do everyday. Not every writer has a handle on that kind of thing. I really appreciated that throughout “Most Die Young,” even if that isn’t the most important literary device at work. And that’s quite a trick on Bordas’s part.

The selection:

“You probably don’t remember me,” I said when he was close enough to hear. “I took your class about twenty years ago.”

“Oh. Yes. You’ve been long forgotten then.” Allan relaxed his eyes.

“I wasn’t a very noticeable student to begin with,” I said. “Although, once, I made you and the whole classroom laugh by mistranslating clavicula Salomonis as ‘Solomon’s clavicle.’ ”

“Oh . . . of course I remember you.” His voice softened. “Of course, of course . . . Julie, right?”

“I’m just the sister,” Delphine said, although no one had asked her anything.

The translation fiasco appeared to have replaced me in Allan’s memory, but his change of tone seemed to indicate that he also remembered me as the poor Julie whose parents had died during her freshman year. My parents had been poisoned by their water heater—carbon monoxide—and people tended to remember that because it had happened on the same day that terrorists had bombed the Saint-Michel Métro station, right next to the Sorbonne. I’d been in Allan’s class when the bombs had gone off.


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