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Here's a slangy, at times anachronistic, translation--the first into English--of the third novel by a French Surrealist and Communist, Crevel (1900-1935), who committed suicide, according to Salvador Dali's self-promoting and outrageous foreword (written in 1954), because he could not reconcile his political and aesthetic beliefs. More likely, it had much to do with Crevel's tortured life as a homosexual, a life very much at the center of this autobiographical fiction, as we learn from the translator's lengthy, and not a little kooky, introduction. Not quite the ""richly poetic discourse"" promised by Rattray, Crevel's profile in decadence dispenses with conventional narrative technique; he instead intersperses lush flights of metaphor among passages of highly suggestive dialogue and self-conscious interior monologues. The latter take us into the ""abnormal"" mind of Pierre Dumont, the 20-year-old bohemian whose ""bizarre tastes"" lead to endless shame and confusion. He's most oppressed by his tyrannical mother, a horrid dowager, ""something of a poseuse,"" who thinks love of any kind disgusting since it leads to stained sheets and nasty smells. She's recently found a ""sister in misery""--Mme. Blok, widowed by her husband's suicide, and now courted by the insufferable Honore Bricoulet. Her daughter, Diane, an art student and Pierre's best friend, holds out for him the possibility of domestic peace and normalcy. But his lust for ""raw joy"" draws him inevitiably to Arthur Bruggle, an aspiring American composer, ""a boy savage"" who prefers the rough trade from the Parisian streets. Constantly reminded by his mother of his father's madness--the result of a life of whoring--Pierre reviles loyal Diane, is mocked by the inconstant Bruggle, and succumbs to the savage god who took her father's life. In this manic and campy portrait of sexual ambivalence, Paris in the 20's--the Paris of Brassai's photographs--comes alive.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1986
Publisher: North Point