cover image The Crab Nebula

The Crab Nebula

Eric Chevillard. University of Nebraska Press, $50 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-8032-1475-0

Chevillard's fifth novel (his first to be translated into English) concerns one character only, an individual named Crab, and is more or less a compilation of Crab's reactions to a world in which he feels out of place. The novel stands as a cynical rallying cry against the enigmatic, nebulous nature of existenceDhence the title. In every section, Crab examines a conundrum: birth, for example, an event whose existence he can't prove because, although he was supposedly present, he has absolutely no recollection of it. The novel is reminiscent of the shorter prose of Baudelaire, particularly Le Spleen de Paris, and those who care for novels based on a structured, narrative-driven plots are warned to stay away. The self-induced metaphorical tribulations of Crab prove Chevillard to be a master at setting a tone; but without providing any specific motivation for Crab's existential tribulations, Chevillard's bons mots make for nothing but beaux gestes. This novel makes one think, but not feel, and is therefore only accessible to a certain select, already converted, readership. (Feb.)