cover image My Manservant and Me

My Manservant and Me

Herve Guibert, trans. from the French by Jeffrey Zuckerman. Nightboat, $13.95 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-1-64362-152-4

The late novelist and AIDS provocateur-activist Guibert (To The Friend Who Did Not Save My Life) offers an exquisite narrative of submissive seduction, sadistic subjugation, and psychological manipulation involving an elderly playwright and his young caregiver. Guibert (1955–1991) sets the novel in 2036 and subtly unravels the men’s seesawing, often violent, kinky bonds. Hired to handle all the affairs of the “cynical dandy,” including a “colossal fortune” and the administration of morphine injections, 20-year-old Jim, a former child actor, usurps control of his master’s wardrobe, determines television viewing habits, and alters Regency-era furniture in the main bedroom of their Rue de Varenne mansion. Funds are frittered away on a Christmas sex holiday in Bangkok. Sir, as the 80-year-old playwright is known, meanwhile subsists on microwave meals, beer, and aquavit, and feels uneasy with his complicity in the “structure of servitude”—Budapesti tavern servers, Moroccan bellhops, La Coupole waiters, Jim—and asks himself, “Does this mean I like to enslave others?” Guibert’s unflinching descriptions and unfettered prose put him in a prominent place on the gay fiction continuum, somewhere between J.R. Ackerley and Garth Greenwell. Thanks to Zuckerman’s sumptuous translation, Anglophone readers can enjoy this captivating firecracker. (Oct.)