Translated by S. C. Delaney and Agnès Potier, with an introduction, by S. C. Delaney / September 2017 / 4.5 x 7, 48 pp. / 978-1-939663-30-6
District describes, in ten vignettes, the sad, sordid, and sinister aspects to a section of an unnamed French city, and the manners in which the ghost-like human entities that inhabit, live, and wither within it are molded, moved, and absorbed by its spaces. A noisy metro station, old tenements, buildings going up, along with the fixtures of French communal life: the open-air market, the public garden; the little shops and bars, the lively town square—the ugly and mundane, the coarse and unmentionable sit side by side with the occasionally burgeoning beauty. With a sense of voyeuristic tension and queasy complicity, the reader is taken on an outcast’s tour of city life—from construction site to metro, from bar to brothel—an analysis of communal living in the past tense from the perspective of the absolute exile. One of Duvert’s last books, it is also one of his shortest: an unexpected return to the roving, fractured eye of the Nouveau Roman that had informed his earliest work.
Tony Duvert (1945–2008) earned a reputation as the “enfant terrible” of the generation of French authors known for defining the postwar Nouveau Roman. Expelled from school at the age of 12 for homosexuality (and then put through a psychoanalytic “cure” for his condition), Duvert declared war on family life and societal norms through a controversial series of novels and essays (whose frequent controversial depictions of child sexuality and pedophilia often lead his publisher to sell his works by subscription only). He won the Prix Medicis in 1973 for his novel Strange Landscape. His reputation faded in the 1980s, however, and he withdrew from society. He died in isolation in July 2008 in the commune of Thoré-la-Rochette in central France.
“A short, tight collection with stark and vivid imagery (‘Near the threshold, a pool of vomit stretches out in the shape of a tongue’), District is an impressive, if small (a mere forty page-), collection of place-defining vignettes.”
—M. O. Orthofer, The Complete Review
“As a New Yorker during the “Summer of Hell” subway season, the imagery of the metro as living beast who shits out passengers is fairly relatable. It’s also illustrative of how Duvert turns the deep, defamiliarizing description of the nouveau roman toward fantasy and even horror.”
—Aaron Winslow, Full Stop
“Conceived as imaginary cartographies of country and city life, respectively, these brief texts, filled with sketches of shit removers, gay cruising spots and rotten rubbish dumps, underscore Duvert’s penchant for Wildean satire and Boschian nightmare.”
—Erik Morse, The Times Literary Supplement