One Hour of Fervor by Muriel Barbery

The completion of a story left untold in the author’s book A Single Rose, this loving tribute to Japanese culture is an enlightening experience for westerners. Beautifully told and exquisitely translated, it is a profoundly pleasurable read.

One Hour of Fervor by Muriel Barbery
Europa Editions
Hardcover | $26
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This collaboration between a superb author and an experienced and talented translator fulfills the promise of Barbery’s previous works. It is especially meaningful because it completes the story begun in “A Single Rose”, one of the most beautiful books this reader has enjoyed in recent years. The author’s facility with emotions, ideas, spiritual beliefs and human tragedy is mirrored by the exquisitely rendered translation. An aside: if you see the name Alison Anderson as a translator, pick up the book. It is likely to be a gem.


Haru, a Japanese art dealer who has become wildly successful in spite of deep personal misgivings about himself, his career and the world, discovers that he is the father of child born of a brief romantic encounter with a French woman. Having asked to meet the child he is told that the mother will “kill herself” if he makes the attempt. He is relegated to the role of shadow parent, watching his daughter, Rose, grow up in his absence. It is a source of great pain to him, but he bears it with good grace and continues with his life, always watching Rose grow into womanhood from afar.


In the meantime he engages in a life of drinking, serial mistresses and deep abiding friendships with several people, male and female, and makes as much of his life as he can. The themes of friendship, love, respect for Japanese culture and suffering color his existence and shape his fate. Barbery’s masterful handling of the dichotomies of human endeavor enrich the bittersweet nature of a life in emotional exile. Pain and joy reside side by side and create a unique sense of meaning for Haru, and for the reader.


Barbery, who has lived in Japan and is clearly well-versed in the culture exhibits a profound respect for the beauty of Japanese art and poetry. Upon finishing this book (and I strongly recommend reading A Single Rose as well) one will surely have a more positive view of this Asian nation and its people. It is a loving tribute to thoughtful living and the abiding value of deep friendship. I give it the highest marks.