cover image Errant Vice

Errant Vice

Jean Lorrain, trans. from the French by Brian Stableford. Snuggly, $19.95 trade paper (312p) ISBN 978-1-943813-71-1

Stableford’s serviceable translation of Le vice errant (1902), comprising several separate stories and a short novel, conveys the original’s unusual and potent blend of Riviera scenery, social commentary, and sheer perverse cruelty. The volume is tied together by its Riviera setting and the pretense that it is being narrated to Lorrain in his persona as a newspaper correspondent. The short stories are mostly true crime, in the manner of Poe, about peculiar murders, the woes of prostitution, and similar subjects; the novel, “Corners of Byzantium: The Noronsoffs,” is a blackly ironic version of the Adonis myth. Its protagonist, Sacha, is cursed to be a libertine and is dying from his own excess of wealth and power. The struggles of Sacha’s physician—Lorrain’s interlocutor—to keep him alive are noble, heroic, and doomed. Lorrain (1855–1906) manages to invest the lives of the modern rich with truly Byzantine intrigue and decay. Unfortunately, the serialized nature of the work means that the novel does not have a plot beyond Sacha’s continuing degradation, and ends up slightly repetitive, its only real flaw. Lorrain was among the greatest of the decadents, and fans of the movement will appreciate this addition to their collections. (Oct.)