The High Life

The High Life

Jean-Pierre Martinet

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Translated, with an introduction, by Henry Vale / April 2012 / 4.5 x 7, 48 pp. / 978-0-9841155-7-0

Adolphe Marlaud’s rule of conduct is simple: live as little as possible so as to suffer as little as possible. For Marlaud, this involves carrying out a meager existence on rue Froidevaux in Paris, tending to his father’s grave in the cemetery across the street, and earning the ghost of a living through a part-time job at the funerary shop on the corner. It does not, however, take into account the amorous intentions of the obese concierge of his building, who has set her widowed sights on his diminutive frame, and whose aggressive overtures will set the wheels in motion for a burlesque and obscene tragedy. Originally published in 1979, The High Life introduces cult French author Jean-Pierre Martinet into English. It is a novella that perfectly outlines the dark fare of Martinet’s vision: the terrors of loneliness, the grotesque buffoonery of sexual relations, the essential humiliation of the human condition, and the ongoing trauma of twentieth-century history.

Jean-Pierre Martinet (1944–1993) wrote only a handful of novels, including what is largely regarded as his masterpiece, the psychosexual study of horror and madness, Jérôme. Largely ignored during his lifetime, his star has only recently begun to shine in France, and he is now regarded as an overlooked French successor to Dostoyevsky. Reading like an unsettling love child of Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Jim Thompson, Martinet’s work explores the grimly humorous possibilities of unlimited pessimism.


The High Life is just an amuse-gueule as far as Martinet's writing goes—well, less amuse than a bracing shot of hard liquor, perhaps—but it's a fine, small piece of work, and certainly leaves the reader with a (slightly wary) appetite for a larger portion.”
—M. A. Orthofer, The Complete Review

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