"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, May 9, 2010

"A Splendid Conspiracy" by Albert Cossery

Anyone who is a friend of Boris Vian is a friend of mine. And Albert Cossery is very close to the aesthetic quality of the Prince of St. Germain-des-Prés. This is the first novel I have read by Cossery, and because of it I am now a loyal follower of this magnificent Egyptian born, but hardcore Parisian writer.

"A Splendid Conspiracy" (Un Complot de Saltimbanques) is a novel about three young friends among other citizens of a small town in Egypt. One is a police informer, the other a European traveler who tasted the good life, and the third is basically a nihilist punk who is über-smart.

Through these three characters, we see small town conservative life and its under-current of sexual adventure, decadence, and possible series of murder. But all of this serves in the background and its interesting how Cossery introduces each character and how they become part of the narrative. Life is a remarkable adventure and this book reads as a map to appreciate your location as well as how things are connected by the dots, but those dots can lead you to something strange, scary, weird, or ...sexy.

The book is translated by Alyson Waters and the language flows easily. A classic. And of course it is published by New Directions. His other novel "The Jokers" will be published by NYRB. So he's in good company.

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