At first sight, “Climates” is a simple fable. It tells of Philippe Marcenat, the heir to a provincial paper-mill business, who falls in love with the woman of his dreams, Odile Malet. He loses her, but is later loved in turn by Isabelle de Cheverny, a woman not of his dreams at all, although he tries (“Vertigo”-ishly) to make her so. We follow first Philippe and then Isabelle as they reflect on their love. There is a happy ending of sorts, though not for Philippe. Maurois has summarized his first vision of the story, in its bare-bones form, as:
Part 1. I love, and am not loved.
Part 2. I am loved, and do not love.
Put that way, it sounds like a perfectly balanced diptych. In fact, it is neither balanced nor anywhere near simple…
Sarah Bakewell on the two loves of André Maurois.
Photograph of Maurois with his wife Simone: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty.