No Tomorrow

No Tomorrow

by Vivant Denon
     
 

A Bilingual New York Review Books Original
Vivant Denon's No Tomorrow is one of the masterpieces of eighteenth-century French libertine literature, a book to set beside Choderlos de Laclos' Les Liaisons dangereuses, except that where Laclos' icy novel tells of hellish depravity, Denon's ravishing novella is a paradisal diversion. This tale of

Overview

A Bilingual New York Review Books Original
Vivant Denon's No Tomorrow is one of the masterpieces of eighteenth-century French libertine literature, a book to set beside Choderlos de Laclos' Les Liaisons dangereuses, except that where Laclos' icy novel tells of hellish depravity, Denon's ravishing novella is a paradisal diversion. This tale of seduction is itself a seduction, with a plot that could be said to slowly unveil itself before arriving at last at an unexpected consummation.

Summoned by Madame de T—— to her country house, the young hero of Denon's novella is taken on a tour of the grounds, only the beginning of a night that not only will be full of unanticipated delights but will give rise to unforeseen, perhaps unanswerable, questions. Lydia Davis's definitive translation of Denon's slim masterpiece is accompanied by the French text. Peter Brooks's illuminating introduction explores the mysteries of No Tomorrow's original publication and the subtleties of Denon's ethics of pleasure.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Denon's tale portrays the Epicurean aspects of slowness" --The Boston Globe

"One of the loveliest pieces of French prose." —Milan Kundera, The Art of the Novel

"A tale of adulterous love told with impeccable discretion. Balzac like it so much that he cited it in full in his Physiologie du mariage, warning off husbands while recommending it to bachelors as 'a delicious painting of manners of the last century." —The New Oxford Companion to Literature in French

"Captures with concision and panache the spirit of Libertinage so central to eighteenth-century French sociability...No Tomorrow is a tour de force of disabused analysis summarizing all the manipulations, illustions, and self-deceptions which were the essence of eighteenth-century libertinage." —Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature

Michael Dirda
In his introduction, Peter Brooks…likens Denon's book to the paintings of Fragonard and the operas of Mozart. Certainly, No Tomorrow possesses comparable aesthetic virtues: lightness, brevity, wit, quickness, an air of galanterie and courtly sophistication…You can read No Tomorrow in just an hour. Its chiaroscuro effects of candlelight and shadow, its teasing tone, its picture of gradual unveiling and dishabille will keep you both charmed and on edge. Embrace the gradualness, the anticipation. There's no need to rush.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
This slender tale of adultery written in 1777 has been rendered into graceful English by Proust translator Davis. The tale encompasses a breathless night for a 20-year-old aristocrat who is spirited away by Mme. de T— from the opera, where he is waiting on another woman, and taken to the lady’s home outside of Paris. The luxurious chateau belongs to Mme. de T—’s estranged husband, though the husband and wife are apparently “to be reconciled.” The young man realizes he is to entertain the wife after her husband goes to bed, which he does until dawn, when his glorious night is ended by the arrival of the lady’s previous lover, Marquis de —. In his introduction, Peter Brooks says the story is about “the ethics of pleasure,” and while scintillating and theatrical, the storytelling is too saccharine to be satisfying. (Oct.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590173268
Publisher:
New York Review Books
Publication date:
10/13/2009
Series:
New York Review Books Classics Series
Pages:
112
Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.40(d)

Meet the Author

Dominique Vivant Denon (1747-1825), a member of the minor French nobility, was born in Burgundy and sent to Paris to study law—a field he soon abandoned in order to pursue literature and art. After writing a play that enjoyed a small succcess, Denon became a favorite of Louis XV, who in 1769 put him in charge of Madame de Pompadour’s gemstone collection. Dispatched on various diplomatic missions to Russia and Sweden, Denon eventually joined the French embassy in Naples, where he spent seven years studying, etching, and collecting antiquities. The 1789 revolution put Denon’s life at serious risk, but he was protected by his friendship with the painter David, who employed him as a designer of costumes for revolutionary pageants. Denon allied himself to Napoleon and took part in the Egyptian campaign, making sketches of monuments that were later published in his Travels in Upper and Lower Egypt (1802), a book that helped to inspire the Egyptian Revival in the decorative arts. In 1804 Napoleon made Denon the director-general of museums and the head of the Musée Napoleon, and it was Denon who oversaw the assembly of the extraordinary collection, drawn by the Emperor’s armies from all over Europe, that remains central to today’s Louvre. Forced into retirement after Napoleon’s downfall, Denon turned to assembling an illustrated history of art, left unfinished at the time of his death but published posthumously.

Peter Brooks is the author of Henry James Goes to Paris, Realist Vision, Troubling Confessions, Reading for the Plot, The Melodramatic Imagination, and a number of other books, including the historical novel World Elsewhere. He taught for many years at Yale, where he was Sterling Professor of Comparative Literature, and currently is Andrew W. Mellon Scholar at Princeton.

Lydia Davis is an American author and translator of French. She is a Professor of Creative Writing at the University at Albany, SUNY.

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