cover image Desirable Body

Desirable Body

Hubert Haddad, trans. from the French by Alyson Waters. Yale Univ., $16 trade paper (232p) ISBN 978-0-300-22436-8

In this sharp and provocative novel from Haddad (Rochester Knockings), Cédric Erg is a journalist who’s made a name for himself by targeting Big Pharma and the oil industry, all the while hiding the fact that his father is Morice Allyn-Weberson, head of a giant pharmaceutical lab. Cédric’s built a life he’s happy with, until a freak accident on a ship leaves him paralyzed from the neck down. Cédric is made an offer to be the first person in history to undergo a full body transplant, as a brain-dead patient whose body was otherwise preserved has just arrived at the hospital. Trapped in the prison of his broken body, Cédric agrees to the transplant, and against all odds, it seems to succeed. Though Cédric is now hailed as a modern medical miracle, he can never go back to the life he once had; besides the strange body he now occupies, his true identity as Cédric Allyn-Weberson has been revealed. With nothing to tether him to the life he’d created, Cédric goes to Italy to learn more about the person whose body he now inhabits, in the hopes that understanding who his body was will help his brain figure out who Cédric will have to be. Haddad’s fabulously imagined, deeply intelligent, and vividly realized modern parable—complete with moments of true horror—sizzles as it grapples with the question of what makes a self, and if it’s ever possible to separate soul from flesh. (Aug.)