An overpowering erotic desire for a young girl
In Minuet , a man works eight hours a day in the refrigerated basement of a factory. There he adjusts the temperature and has little more to do than open or close a valve occasionally. In this polar world he is accompanied only by his own fears and thoughts, and for hours on end he converses with himself. Once he returns home to his wife, he prefers to withdraw with his collection of newspaper clippings about brutal rapes, gruesome murders and other inhumanities.
His wife is his complete opposite. She is optimistic about human nature and wants to climb the social ladder. She turns out to be very receptive to the smooth talk of a travelling salesman who ultimately gets her pregnant. Her now precarious marriage is completely thrown off balance when a twelve year-old girl comes to help with the housekeeping. This is not an innocent child but a pubescent femme fatale, a nymph like Nabokov’s Lolita (also from 1955).
The novel is divided into three parts and in each an unnamed narrator tells his or her part of the story. Boon succeeds at bringing to life these completely different mental worlds in great detail and at a dizzying pace; we see the complete isolation of the man, the shameless assertiveness of the girl, and the bourgeois ambitions of the woman.
On the surface, no greater contrast can be imagined between this intimate, subjective novel and the politically-charged polyphony of Chapel Road (1953). Nevertheless, within this masterful psychological novel about a triangular relationship we find a strange allegory of the world in which we live. Because of his maladjustment, the protagonist poses critical questions about religion, monarchy and the State. In addition, a generational conflict is examined, that between the idealism of the hard-working middle-class woman and the nihilistic, rebelliousness of post-war youth in the person of the child temptress.
The rock-hard undertone of the story and its claim to realism are accented by authentic newspaper reports of murders and rapes, printed at the top of the pages, which expose the perversity of modern man.