Demolishing Nisard

Eric Chevillard, trans. from the French by Jordan Stump. Dalkey Archive, $13.95 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-56478-633-3
This whimsical broadside by Chevillard (The Crab Nebula) directed against the 19th-century traditionalist litérateur Désiré Nisard is the equivalent of a Gallic smack down: a fun, highly staged, fantastical vaudeville act, complete with the requisite salvos directed at Nisard's ancestry, birth, sexual proclivities, and of course his entire unfortunate literary legacy. But this manifesto is also an earnest endeavor, as the erstwhile critic's "disseminated ideas mingle with the air around us just as the atoms of his decomposed corpse mingled with the earth," simultaneously a cathartic rant and a tongue-in-cheek quest, as our all-consumed narrator sets out single-mindedly to unearth an elusive copy of Nisard's "lascivious tale" A Milkmaid Succumbs. "Nisard's ribaldry bespeaks clearly enough the poverty of his imagination: his very libido inspires in him only the most pitifully banal sort of fantasy." Aided by Jordan Stump's vivacious translation, which captures equally both the verve and the tomfoolery of the original, this tragicomic manifesto reads like a good farce peppered with some heartfelt cultural criticism and a copious serving of existential angst. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/04/2011
Release date: 08/01/2011
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