The Butcher

Alina Reyes, Author, David Watson, Translator
Alina Reyes, Author, David Watson, Translator Grove Press $16 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1571-3
Reviewed on: 05/29/1995
Release date: 06/01/1995
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-0-8021-3450-9
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-886238-06-0
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-09-954697-9
Hardcover - 80 pages - 978-1-86021-865-1
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The conjunction of sex and death takes on new meaning in The Butcher, a French novella that is by turns delicate and lewd, lyrical and wild, metaphysical and fleshy. Its nameless narrator, a frustrated painter and college art student, takes a summer job in a butcher's shop where, amid the hanging carcasses, her fat, bloodstained boss makes obscene advances that she finally accepts. He also fornicates in a freezer room with another female employee, while the narrator reaches cosmic crescendos with her boyfriend and with a pickup who leaves her in a ditch. This seductive hymn to the unrestrained power of eros is probably too rarefied a pate to achieve the bestsellerdom it garnered in France and England, where it was published without accompaniment. Here, it's joined by a second novella, Lucie's Long Voyage. Part ecological parable, part exquisite modern fairy tale, it features a woman who lives in a forest with a colossal bear that apparently gets her pregnant. Lucie produces a human baby, with whom she lives in an abandoned church; at a nearby library, she meets Ange Nardone, a writer on myth who tells her of his obsessive love decades ago for his capricious wife, Lusi. Nardone's researches into Melusine, the serpent-woman of myth and folk literature, gradually suggest that Lucie/Melusine/Lusi are variants of the eternal feminine principle, whose violation triggers a city's destruction. Reyes's astonishing imagery, fertile imagination and brisk tempo give this haunting tale a compelling urgency. (June)
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