Madame Therese is a rum old bag, a legend of the Parisian footlights for more years than the dea has hair on her head. She recites Villon, can remember Bernhardt and Proust, and cavorts like a cement mixer in bed. The opening pages present this painted crone in all her libidinal glory, entwined in some unfathomable position with a throwback to the stone age, a member of the Foreign Legion whom she calls Pox (or Poxy) and who has tattoos all over his impressive bulk, including the buttocks. Besides sex and drink, Madame Therese enjoys immolating herself on stage and performing in a new play which thrills the post-Liberation masses. Madame Therese is an artiste and a life force, and Blaise Cendrars, her creator, is clearly in love with her, though he enjoys poking fun and slapping together all sorts of preposterous adventures. Blaise Cendrars is a very fine poet and he writes some very fine prose, a blend of Balac, Alfred Jarry, and Sacha Guitry, studded with shots of volcanic comedy, hyperbolic character sketches, rippling dialogue, and lots of poetic horse manure, the kind which reviewers who don't wish to be dubbed fuddy-duddles call ""carthy."" Madame Therese dies in a pitiful way and her lover absconds with her jewels. But not before she has delivered a number of brilliant arias about her teeming past, caused havoc amongst her colleagues, and arranged the marriage of her protege, a pretty Greek girl, with Madame Therese's favorite elderly homosexual. Somehow what should have been a grotesquely poignant leu d'esprit doesn't come off. Madame is not that believable.