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The Death of the Author [Paperback]

Gilbert Adair


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Book Description

June 1 2008 The Contemporary Art of the Novella
What, I thought, was to prevent me from truly killing the author?

Part murder mystery and all jet-black satire, and based on a real life scandal, this edgy novella tells the story of Léopold Sfax, world-renowned as the creator of "The Theory"—a bizarre literary theory that grew from an intellectual folly to a dominant school of criticism that enslaved college campuses across the country.

However, The Theory, which holds that the text of any piece of writing tells us all that we need to know about its author (as if the author himself is "dead") takes on extra perversity when the revered—or is it feared?—Sfax is found to have once written something that seems...well, murderously revealing.

In the hands of Gilbert Adair, it's a dexterously wrought and hysterically devilish look at academic cultishness. It's also a taut metaphysical murder mystery that confounds the reader's expectations on almost every page and reserves its most stunning surprise—the ultimate whodunit twist—for the very last page.

The Contemporary Art of the Novella series is designed to highlight work by major authors from around the world. In most instances, as with Imre Kertész, it showcases work never before published; in others, books are reprised that should never have gone out of print. It is intended that the series feature many well-known authors and some exciting new discoveries. And as with the original series, The Art of the Novella, each book is a beautifully packaged and inexpensive volume meant to celebrate the form and its practitioners.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 150 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House (June 1 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933633573
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933633572
  • Product Dimensions: 17.7 x 13 x 1.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 181 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #890,580 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

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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Review

Praise for Gilbert Adair's The Death of The Author

"Brillant, worthy of Nabokov."
—David Lodge

"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

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