STREET GIRL by Muriel Cerf


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A booklength prose poem about coming-of-age in France in the 50's and the early 60's. Cerf has written ten novels, but this is the first to be translated into English: it's a wildly lyrical performance. Lydie Tristan, the narrator, is adept at ""skidding over reality"": her story is a jumble of poetic fantasy, shrill 60's rhetoric, and long Proustian evocations of moments. In a richly lyrical (sometimes purplish) prose, Lydie describes an affluent childhood and a typically tortured adolescence by focusing (in the manner of Henry Miller) on drool, dog urine, and pigeon droppings. Metaphorical to a fault, she dramatizes her life as a series of metamorphoses, and finds companions suitable to such tastes: Polline, her Double, with whom she explores ""the festival of universal crapola"" on television, the highs of almond glue and ether, and other delinquencies; Hughette, a prostitute whose ""fabulous fairy-tale life of a whore"" becomes a part of her mythology; Able, Hughette's gay pimp who introduces our heroine to art, culture, and Wilhelm Reich; and Aunt Ro, who helps her escape to Venice so that she can be devirginized by the excon Angelo, a kind of beatnik prince. As Lydie tells her story, posturing that she doesn't give ""one holy shit about all the moral taboos that formed the backbone of the preceding generation,"" we are treated to sensuous set pieces: a Saturday meal, Sunday alone in a Montmarte apartment, Easter vacation with Aunt Ro, a fantasia about her first kiss, the arrival of her first period, numerous portraits of Pigalle whores and back-alley street life. Cerf's prose will be too rich for some people's blood: this is as far from minimalism as we can get. But the rhetoric perfectly matches the adolescent sensibility: if this finely translated ode to 60's rebellion is typical, may her other novels soon be available as well.

Pub Date: Nov. 24th, 1988
Publisher: Dalkey Archive (1817 79th Ave., Elmwood Park, IL 60635)