'I am sixteen. I am as old as the century.'
It is 1916. Vincent is sixteen, on the brink of manhood. "Of course I am not innocent. I am no longer a child." Vincent is a product of the Belle Epoque, aristocratic and privileged, frequenting the salons of Paris while France is at war and the city almost deserted of men, left to the company of women and children, the old and the infirm.
In that brutal summer, Vincent's beauty and precocity captivate two men: Marcel, some thirty years his senior, a writer and celebrated socialite; and Arthur, the twenty-one year old son of one of the servants, a taciturn school-teacher who is now a soldier at the front. Both relationships become love affairs of a kind - of the mind or of the body.
Vincent intuitively tires to keep his passions separate, but over the weeks of indolent Parisian summer and far-off war, confidences are made, absences endured, secrets revealed. All of these men will suffer, and Vincent lose the last vestiges of his childhood.
'In The Absence Of Men' is a stunning first novel: in its daring in representing Marcel Proust as a character, in the beauty of its prose and in its delicacy of feeling. It is a quite remarkable debut.