Mathilda

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Overview

Mathilda, or Matilda, is the second novel of Mary Shelley, written between August 1819 and February 1820. It deals with common Romantic themes of incest and suicide.
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Mathilda

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Overview

Mathilda, or Matilda, is the second novel of Mary Shelley, written between August 1819 and February 1820. It deals with common Romantic themes of incest and suicide.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When Louise's husband, Adrien, leaves her for his father's lover, Paula, a surgically enhanced model, the troubled young Parisian editor finds the joy has been sucked out of her life. The daughter of Bernard-Henri Levy, the author (The Rendezvous) evokes the misery of heartache and unsentimentally conveys her protagonist's hollow sense of desolation in stylized, fragmentary prose. ("Into the trash with all secondhand pre-used words, it's like my heart, and my body, they're also secondhand, they've also loved, suffered, so what?") As the narrative progresses, seamlessly moving between the present and Louise's recollections of her fraught marriage, she slowly begins to see Adrien for the belittling, controlling and vain miscreant he was during their time together. Adding to the list of Louise's sorrows is the death of her beloved grandmother as well as the long-undetected cancer threatening her mother's life, but romance with Pablo, a devoted Spaniard, buoys her spirits. A delicious cynicism creeps onto every page as Louise recounts her dysfunctional marriage, her addiction to amphetamines and battles with low self-esteem. Levy's memorable if neurotic protagonist proves loveable despite her many flaws, and the novel is distinguished by that particularly intriguing brand of French fatalism. (Oct. 1) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Parisienne Louise Levy's twenties have been tumultuous-an early marriage, an abortion at 20, an addiction to amphetamines and months of rehab, her mother's cancer diagnosis, and divorce at 27 when her husband takes up with a model/singer who was once involved with his father. In her second translated novel, after The Rendezvous, Levy, the daughter of French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, elegantly and poignantly recounts these events as her protagonist attempts to move on with her life with boyfriend Pablo. This thinly veiled autobiographical work accomplished the heroic task of knocking Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code off the European best sellers lists; evidently, it resonates with Europeans owing to the presence of the literary equivalents of Carla Bruni, Mick Jagger's ex, and other celebrities watched abroad. Those craving self-absorbed drama might like Nothing Serious-think of a continental Sex in the City with little humor. Recommended only for those libraries collecting contemporary European fiction.-Jenn B. Stidham, Houston Community Coll. Northeast Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A sensation in France last year, this novel from Levy (Rendezvous, 1997) manages the impossible, combining the plot of a made-for-tv-movie with language worthy of a feminist philosopher-poet. For French readers, some of the interest of this novel stemmed from its rumored autobiographical elements (Levy's father is a noted philosopher in France, and Levy herself travels with European high society), but even if its celebrity references escape American readers, this beautifully written book deserves attention. If it can be said to have something so conventional as a plot, it recounts three crises in the life of first-person narrator Louise Levy. First, her beloved grandmother dies, then her glamorous mother is diagnosed with cancer and, most importantly, her husband, the successful and charismatic Adrien, abandons her to marry his own father's lover. These events do not appear in chronological order. They emerge as almost incidental catalysts for Louise's introspection. The masterful way that the story moves from random childhood memories to evocative sensations of taste and sound and touch in Louise's mind finally yields a rich, multi-dimensional portrait of a woman who believes that she is the creature of feeling alone. Out of a stream of random thoughts, a full character-elusive, contradictory and often very charming-finds her way out of the despair of losing the people she loves. Levy's prose is luminous-much credit should go to her excellent translator-and the novel is a marvel of construction.
From the Publisher
"I wanted them all, even those I'd already read."
—Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

"Small wonders."
Time Out London

"[F]irst-rate…astutely selected and attractively packaged…indisputably great works."
—Adam Begley, The New York Observer

"I’ve always been haunted by Bartleby, the proto-slacker. But it’s the handsomely minimalist cover of the Melville House edition that gets me here, one of many in the small publisher’s fine 'Art of the Novella' series."
The New Yorker

"The Art of the Novella series is sort of an anti-Kindle. What these singular, distinctive titles celebrate is book-ness. They're slim enough to be portable but showy enough to be conspicuously consumed—tiny little objects that demand to be loved for the commodities they are."
—KQED (NPR San Francisco)

"Some like it short, and if you're one of them, Melville House, an independent publisher based in Brooklyn, has a line of books for you... elegant-looking paperback editions ...a good read in a small package."
The Wall Street Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781497592568
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
  • Publication date: 4/9/2014
  • Pages: 98
  • Sales rank: 1,146,292
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Nothing serious


By Justine Levy

MELVILLE HOUSE PUBLISHING

Copyright © 2004 Editions Stock
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-9761407-7-2


Chapter One

I wore jeans to my grandmother's funeral. I didn't think it would shock people as much as it did; I thought no one would notice-she wouldn't have. My mind was on something else when I was getting dressed, I don't remember what, my grandmother isn't dead, they're not going to bury my grandmother, I have to call her up, that sort of thing.

Someone had organized a sort of party after the burial, party isn't quite the word, I don't know the right word for it, I took a taxi, I said to the man Go, but where? I don't know, maybe the Rue du Four, where my office is, and I escaped, I didn't want to go to this party, I've never liked parties, when I was young, thirteen or fourteen years old, when I wasn't living with my father or my mother, I was living with her, my grandmother, she made me go out, go to parties at night, she lent me dresses. There are grandmothers who make their grand-daughters go to school or clean their plates; my grandmother made me go to parties.

But I have a pimple, I'd wail. That was the end of the world for me, a pimple. I felt as if I were nothing but a pimple, a giant pimple, What pimple, my grandmother would say without looking at me, where is it? It's right there, on my nose, it's another nose on top of my nose! No, dear, it's nothing, it's nothing at all, in fact it's cute, we'll make it into a beauty spot. That's okay, I'd say (a beauty spot on the nose, give me a break) she got her way for the party, she made me up, disguised me as her, or maybe as my mother, I don't know, with coal-black eyes, cherry-red lips, glitter on my eyelashes, it's true you couldn't see the pimple anymore. I was happy being someone else. I wasn't her, not quite, but I was somebody else and I almost liked myself, but I'd still cry in the car, I was so afraid and so ashamed, the makeup wouldn't stay on, I couldn't make the illusion last, Cinderella long before midnight, I'd be silly and stupid and ugly and this time everyone would realize it. The day of my grandmother's funeral, in the taxi, I didn't cry. I'm not going to the party, I said to myself. My grandmother is dead, I had the prettiest grandmother in the world but she is dead and I'm not crying.

My telephone rang, I remember. Private number, must be Adrien, or maybe Mom, always calling at the wrong time, always with bizarre emergencies, she's further west than me. Maybe she's crying, I said to myself. She loved her, she was her last link with Dad, maybe she's calling so we can cry together. But I didn't want that, I didn't want anything, nothing at all, just a cigarette, oh, but I was already smoking a cigarette, she'd leave a message in any case: Sweetie, Sweetie, are you there? Before, with Adrien, we'd often speak at the same time on the answering machine, a word each, or a sentence each, or else both of us saying the whole sentence at the same time, so happy we were to be together, happy and proud, two happy idiots proud of their true love, oh we'll show them, they'll see, we'll throw our great love in their faces, our insolent radiant love, this body with two heads, this soul with two bodies, or else he'd tickle me and make me laugh, or we'd say stupid things and our fathers would scold us, What kind of message is that, you aren't children anymore, that's not serious! Yes, it's serious, we seriously love each other, we haven't been children for a long time and we love each other super-seriously.

1-2-3, I see on my answering machine. It is Mom, then Dad, Gabriel, and then, in the saved messages, a message from her, my grandmother, her voice coming from so far away I can scarcely recognize it, Hello my little Lou, for her I was always her little Lou, it's her voice, there, in my ear, she is dead, but it's her voice, reassuring, enveloping, hello, hello, she called me from her little red telephone, she loved red so much, her red convertible, the red carpet in her bathroom, her red ski suit she lent me when I wanted to show off, it's her voice in my ear, everything is the same, the slight pause after Hello, the tinge of irony in My little Lou when she was so weak, already dying, and yet I don't cry. I don't cry but something in me stirs, a pinch at my heart, a throbbing like when you've run too fast, I shouldn't have listened to my answering machine I tell myself, but still I don't cry.

She told me Good riddance when Adrien left me. I'm broken into a thousand pieces, stunned, and she tells me Good riddance, he wasn't your type, he was a sleaze, a show-off. A show-off? A show-off of what? An empty show-off, someone who waves his arms around, is full of hot air, like that, that's what my grandmother said to me when the show-off left me. In the cemetery too I'm stunned, too shattered to cry, without any reaction, without any emotions, and in jeans, my grandmother loved jeans, she thought they showed off your ass nicely, she wore them all the time, she thought with nice shoes they could even be sort of chic. I'm wearing sort of hideous shoes so I'm not very chic, but what does it matter since she isn't there anymore to say to me, with her laughing, bright voice: Louise, how chic you look!

Not like Adrien, who pounces on me, leaping like a Mexican jumping-bean out of the packed, sniffling crowd, when we haven't seen each other for, what, six months, to choose that instant, that place, he could have warned me, he could have not come, he knows how I hate surprises. In any case I'm much too numb to be surprised, he pounces on me, his eyes red and his face all wrong, tense, sallow, with a funny twitch in his chin, like a tic, or a hiccup, he says Baby darling my little bear as he cries all over me, wringing his hands, his hands that are a little small, look at that, they're purplish at the knuckles, they're somebody else's hands. He's wearing a big watch, flashy, the kind worn by Important People and the people we used to make fun of, before, together, when we loved each other and when we were like Siamese twins who don't even need to explain why they make so much fun of other people, he's wearing an expensive watch that says I have a lot of money and not a lot of time but, look, I've come to your grandmother's funeral.

He looks pleased with his watch, pleased at being there and above all pleased at crying, pleased he can show everyone he's there and he's crying. Maybe he studied his new chin-twitch this morning, in the mirror. Maybe he tested it on Paula, the new woman in his life. The dreariness of a show-off, I tell myself as my grandmother would have said, letting him pull me towards him. And then when he detaches himself (I don't respond to his embrace, I let my arms dangle on either side of his jacket, Does the jacket look okay? He must have asked Paula before he went out) I feel my neck all wet from his tears, yuck. He looks hard at me, looks me up and down, with a mixture of disbelief and disapproval: my jeans, of course.

I am not sad that day. My grandmother is dead, but I'm so swollen inside, so desperate, so destroyed, that I'm not sad, and I don't cry'. Around me, tons of people I don't know, people crammed together and bathed in tears, people who look like they know why they're there and why they're sad, people who must have come from far away, from Marseille, from Madrid, from Tel Aviv, from New York, they are her relatives, my relatives, they loved her, they also seem to love me too, so sorry, please accept my condolences, if I can do something, she was so unique, don't hesitate to call. And my father, his sadness, I had never seen my father as sad as that, I had never understood that my father was also a son, but why is he crying like that? Is it because he's noticed that his daughter, next to him, is not crying? Or is he crying too much because he's noticed that I can't manage to cry? They're all crying. And they all come towards me. And tell me nice things or awkward things or tender things. And all I can think is shut up, shut up already, I'm not crying why are you, and I keep my head lowered, I doodle in the dirt with the tip of my sneaker, circles, hearts, squares, I just feel guilty at being there and not crying, guilty I'm in jeans, guilty for being ditched by a sleaze and for being alive and for being in jeans and for not crying. I think dead, dead, dead, she is dead, departed, deceased, she's kicked the bucket, dead, dead, dead, and it has no effect on me. This fucking life. One dumb love affair gone wrong and all of a sudden you become a little dry-hearted bitch who looks nastily at kind people and who can't even be bothered to cry at her own grandmother's funeral.

I cry easily, usually. I cry for anything. When I fall down, when I have a toothache, when someone bumps into me, when I'm afraid, when I'm tired, when I want to be left alone, there, that's what I'd really like, for people to leave me alone and for my cell phone to stop ringing. They must be wondering what I'm doing. No one saw her after the cemetery? She was so sad, poor little Louise. She must have run off to hide and cry in peace.

When was the last time I cried? When I ordered steak tartare, at the cafe near my place, and realized I hadn't brought any money with me, and instead of saying anything I ran out the door and since then I've had to make ridiculous detours to go home? When I drew a moustache on a life-sized Paula behind a bus shelter and an old lady treated me like a juvenile delinquent? When I wanted to take off my wedding ring and my finger began to swell up and I had to have it cut off? No. I didn't cry then either. Dumped, left, jilted, shock has chernobylized me. And that's probably why I snuck out of the bistro and made my finger swell up on purpose: to cry, to feel the need to cry, good warm reassuring tears, the good consolation of flowing tears.

My grandmother is dead. Today I'd like to feel even a tiny desire to cry, a tiny wish to believe it's true, but it's no use-I've lost tears the way other people lose their sight or speech.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Nothing serious by Justine Levy Copyright © 2004 by Editions Stock. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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