Paper Tiger

Written by Olivier Rolin
Review by Eileen Charbonneau

Paper Tiger is the first English translation of acclaimed French novelist Rolin. The past becomes present over a night when a survivor of the 1968 Paris uprising takes his friend’s (known as “Thirteen”) now 24-year-old daughter on an odyssey of the heart, mind and spirit of “The Cause,” the radical group to which they both belonged.

On their journey, the narrator struggles to explain who the members of “The Cause” were, what they thought they were doing, and what happened to each over the years. On the way subjects as wide apart as how the nature of beauty works inherently against equality, and how the young radicals were fueled by tragic images (“Making the Revolution was not so much preparing to take power as learning to die”) surface, as the unlikely pair visit old haunts and attend a gathering of The Cause.

Told in an impressionistic, existential, stream-of-consciousness style, Paper Tiger’s not always coherent or sober narrator presents a challenge that not every reader will have patience to endure. But for those who do, rewards of brilliance in imagery, characterization, and style emerge occasionally.