cover image The Fool and Other Moral Tales

The Fool and Other Moral Tales

Anne Serre, trans. from the French by Mark Hutchinson. New Directions, $15.95 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2716-2

Symbols and signs take on life-changing meanings in Serre’s three sharp, sophisticated, and inventive tales (following The Governesses). Examining a tarot deck given to her by a friend, the narrator of “The Fool” realizes she has already encountered the eponymous card in real life: “You think things appear only on playing cards.... In reality, they exist in life.” The Fool has already come to her in various guises, including Carl, her lover, and the nameless childhood dread that long ago inspired her to become a writer, “to make a pact with the thing that threatens you.” In the slyly funny anti-bildungsroman “The Narrator,” a man travels to a chalet to write, and as he engages in an affair with his landlady, he’s both delighted and inundated with material, feeling that “nothing remained of the world but... the ghostly apparitions of dreams,” which he will turn into a book. But his inability to connect with others occasions a crisis; he no longer wishes “to feel holier-than-thou with your precious images... to feel smug simply because you’re different.” Dreamy and deeply sexual, “The Wishing Table” revisits and revises the literature of debauchery; its narrator, now nearing 40, recounts a happily incestuous childhood. Drawing on fairy tales and psychoanalysis, pornography and poststructuralism, Serre constructs stunning and searing stories that will remain with readers. [em](Sept.) [/em]