A French academic hiding his collaborationist past resurrects himself in America in this misfired novella. Professor of literature at the Yale-like New Harbor, Léopold Sfax, the novella's wily, boorish narrator, has become a celebrity in literary America for espousing his capital-T Theory that words are far older and fickler and more experienced than the writers who... are 'using' them. When eager grad student Astrid Hunneker embarks on writing his biography, Sfax nervously pads his backstory, omitting the embarrassing parts that took place during WWII, when as a young man living in occupied Paris he was asked to contribute to a collaborationist magazine. Yet Sfax returns obsessively to this period, revealing that he pseudonymously wrote scores of Nazi hack work articles and was denounced in a traitor's gallery published by the Resistance in 1943. Adair skillfully constructs his protagonist's elaborate, circuitous justifications, and even introduces a mystery, though too late to keep afloat a narrative weighted down by the narrator's unceasingly haughty academic rhetoric. (Aug.)
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Praise for Gilbert Adair's The Death of The Author
"Brillant, worthy of Nabokov."
"Funny, gripping, and very clever... A brilliant black satire on cultural cultishness... It also works brilliantly as a detective story with apparently motiveless murders."
—Philip Howard, The Times
"The Death of the Author brilliantly combines a serious critique of a dodgy intellectual movement with a suspense-driven detective story."
—Lucasta Miller, Financial Times
"In a brilliantly exact imitaton of the style of Nabokov, Leo Sfaz recounts his life-and-death story. Once a pro-Nazi journalist in France, now an academic hero in somewhere very like Yale, he applies the fashionable technique of deconstruction (text means anything the reader wants it to mean, the author's intentions are nothing, text does not really have authors) to conceal or invert his own ignominius past. But some neat muder mystification is found a place in this dazzling satire of literary-critical pertension."
—Anthony Quinton, Evening Standard