Translated by S. C. Delaney and Agnès Potier, with an introduction, by S. C. Delaney / September 2017 / 4.5 x 7, 56 pp. / 978-1-939663-29-0
This series of twenty-three satirically scabrous short texts introduces the reader to an imaginary French suburb via the strange, grotesque small-town occupations that defined a once reliable, now presumably vanished way of life. A catalog of job descriptions that range from the disgusting functions of “The Snot-Remover” and “The Wiper” to the shockingly cruel dramas enacted by “The Skinner” and “The Snowman,” Odd Jobs offers an outrageous, uncomfortable, and savage sense of humor. Through these narratives somewhere between parody and prose poem, Tony Duvert assaults parenthood, priesthood, and neighborhood in this mock handbook to suburban living: a Sadean Leave it to Beaver as written by William Burroughs.
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 satirical, caustic, and yet delightfully light collection of fables, the book comprises twenty-three narratives from an imaginary village where denizens perform the strangest—and dirtiest—traditions and professions.”
—The Paris Review
“Good—but often quite shocking—fun, artfully presented.”
—M. O. Orthofer, The Complete Review
“While the tone is satirical and the jobs are, of course, over-the-top in their perversity, the portrait presented in Odd Jobs is one of gradual economic intensification. One could do worse than read Duvert—a lifelong libertarian communist associated with Guy Hocquenghem—alongside the autonomist Marxist writings of Silvia Federici, Mariarosa Dalla Costa, Leopoldina Fortunati, and Selma James from this period—writings that first articulated the concept of affective labor.”
—Aaron Winslow, Full Stop
“Odd Jobs is a quick read, but chock-full of disturbing and often black-humor detail about a list of ‘odd jobs’ that serve the inhabitants of an imaginary French village.”
—Kaija Straumanis, Three Percent
“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