Heartsnatcher

( 1 )

Overview

?Boris Vian?s early death robbed French literature of a novelist who was coherent while still modern. Heartsnatcher is an esoteric, surrealistic comedy about guilt, set in a deceptively familiar, almost ordinary locale.? ?New Statesman
Set in a bizarre and slightly sinister town where the elderly are auctioned off at an Old Folks Fair, the townspeople assail the priest in hopes of making it rain, and the official town scapegoat bears the shame of the citizens by fishing junk out of the river with his teeth. ...

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Overview

“Boris Vian’s early death robbed French literature of a novelist who was coherent while still modern. Heartsnatcher is an esoteric, surrealistic comedy about guilt, set in a deceptively familiar, almost ordinary locale.” —New Statesman
Set in a bizarre and slightly sinister town where the elderly are auctioned off at an Old Folks Fair, the townspeople assail the priest in hopes of making it rain, and the official town scapegoat bears the shame of the citizens by fishing junk out of the river with his teeth. Heartsnatcher is Boris Vian's most playful and most serious work. The main character is Clementine, a mother who punishes her husband for causing her the excruciating pain of giving birth to three babies. As they age, she becomes increasingly obsessed with protecting them, going so far as to build an invisible wall around their property.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The last novel Vian completed before his death in 1959, this whimsical, absurdist sendup of human foible takes place in a village where old people are auctioned off like slaves, villagers stone the vicar to produce rain and stallions are crucified for "falling into sin." The novel opens with willful Clementine deep in the throes of labor and furious about it. With her husband, Angel, locked in his room (from the outside), Clementine is rescued by Timortis, a traveling psychoanalyst, who helps her deliver triplets. Timortis befriends the browbeaten Angel (Clementine vows never to have sex with him again) and decides to stay on at the house. As a stranger to the country, he provides a window onto its bizarre customs-it is possible to pay someone to take on another person's shame, for example-even as he trolls the village looking for people to psychoanalyze. As the "heartsnatcher" of the title, Timortis has no feelings or desires of his own and embarks on a futile, hysterical quest for patients so he can "steal their feelings." His sole subject is a maid who thinks psychoanalysis is a euphemism for sex; she's happy to take off her clothes, but she refuses to talk about her feelings. The episodic, meandering narrative wanders from incident to incident, until Angel leaves Clementine, and she takes up child-rearing with unbridled abandon. Vian's sharp, playful humor makes for an entertaining read, although there are extended flat stretches. While the allegorical conceits may be something of an acquired taste, Vian's prose is surprisingly accessible, and his fascinating take on the strange logic of human cruelty and inconsistency makes this a worthwhile read. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Released in French in 1953, this translation dates back to 1968. The story follows the seriously strange and sinister goings-on in a small French town, where seniors are auctioned off at the Old Folks Fair, a psychiatrist's only patient is a cat, and protagonist Clementine, a mother of triplets, builds a wall around her property to protect them. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An impish satire on regimentation-as seen in the delicious particulars of this fetching 1953 novel, previously, unforgivably unavailable in English translation. French author Vian crammed a lot of living, and unique high achievement, into his unfortunately brief life (1920-59). Trained as an engineer, he became instead an accomplished novelist, playwright, actor, jazz musician, and charter member of the experimental "College of Pataphysics"-also attended, as it were, by such mischievous innovators as Raymond Queneau and Eugene Ionesco. Admirers of the latter's fiendishly loopy plays may detect the influence of Ionesco's jaunty illogic, though there's a lot of Molière in Vian too. Heartsnatcher's arresting title alludes directly to the devious practices of its protagonist Timortis, a morose psychiatrist who attempts to enrich his own life by entering, then possessing his patients' dreams, fears, and fantasies (the scene in which he sets forth to "analyze" a bored housecat is beyond praise). His counterpart is the other protagonist, Clementine, an insanely overprotective mother who locks up her baffled husband, safely away from their progeny (a set of triplets), over whose lives she hovers with paramilitary paranoid rapture. These two characters (and several others scarcely less grotesquely absurd) coexist unpeacefully in a provincial town bedeviled by impossible occurrences, and itself a fount of hilarious eccentricity and misrule. For example, an indigent fisherman is hired to retrieve garbage from a nearby river with his teeth. And elderly people are sold as toys. What's so captivating about Vian's mad inventions is their perfectly logical relation to recognizable societal folly (e.g.,maternal "smothering," exploitation of poor people, indifference to the rights of the aged). Though Vian matured in the time of Sartre and Camus (and knew both), he's really an antiexistentialist. His people are indeed responsible for their actions: it's they, not the universe, who are absurd. A major rediscovery. Don't miss it.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781564782991
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2003
  • Edition description: First
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 245
  • Sales rank: 1,388,211
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Raymond Queneau (1903-1976) is acknowledged as one of the most influential of modern French writers, having helped determine the shape of twentieth-century French literature, especially in his role with the
Oulipo, a group of authors that includes Italo Calvino, Georges Perec,
and Harry Mathews, among others.

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