Portrait of the Writer as a Domesticated Animal

Portrait of the Writer as a Domesticated Animal

by Lydie Salvayre
What happens when a writer throws herself into the service of one of the richest businessmen in the world? Will all the luxuries and corruption of the business world turn her into a complacent drone?


What happens when a writer throws herself into the service of one of the richest businessmen in the world? Will all the luxuries and corruption of the business world turn her into a complacent drone?

Editorial Reviews

Le Monde
“There are innocuous books that charm you, gently surprise you at moments you didn’t expect, blissfully put you to sleep, make you dream of princes and princesses . . . But there are others, like Lydie Salvayre’s novels, that make you sit up and take notice, that directly confront you, that shake you up from the very first sentence, warning you that the test is going to be brutal, the dream is going to be dark, and the princess’s smile is going to be painful.”
Jana Herlander - Belletrista
“Portrait of a Writer as a Domesticated Animal is very witty and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.”
Publishers Weekly
Celebrated in France for her psychological novels, this latest from Salvayre (Everyday Life) deftly uses a farcical premise to examine greed, vanity, and power. Broke and bored in Paris, the unnamed novelist-narrator accepts an offer to become the biographer of Tobold the Hamburger King, the most influential businessman on the planet. She must record his every word as he flits between Paris and New York, and soon discovers that the self-made Tobold is a tyrannical megalomaniac, from his comically savage conspiracy to oust a rival to his drunken attempts to bed a female employee. Yet Tobold's cruelty sometimes takes unexpectedly charitable, if ill-intentioned turns (he hires a stranger's no-good son because he believes hoodlums make good businessmen), fueling the tycoon's belief in his own myth (playing the role of a capitalist Jesus, spreading the gospel of the Free Market). Initially repulsed, the narrator eventually finds herself seduced not only by the luxurious perks of her new life, but by the act of servitude itself.
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Library Journal
Big-headed corporate titans and the women who support them come under dual attack in the latest by satirist Salvayre (The Power of Flies). The narrator, a French novelist, is hired to ghostwrite the memoir of Tobold, founder of the fast-food chain King Size and self-described most powerful man in the universe. As she follows him to parties frequented by Hollywood stars and chronicles his barbarous philosophies and rapacious behavior, the narrator finds herself both repelled by the man and completely subservient to him. "I who considered myself a revolutionary writer," she writes, "didn't say a thing that would upset a damn hamburger peddler." VERDICT Though the setting is New York City despite the nationalities of the author and her protagonist, it soon becomes clear that the true target for the novel's considerable indignation is America. The exploration of the uneasy relationship between art and commerce and the responsibilities of each drive the book, sometimes to the point of repetition and usually at the expense of plot. Few novelists working today, however, can command attention the way Salvayre does; she is worth a look, particularly for readers with philosophical leanings.—Forest Turner, Suffolk Cty. House of Correction Lib., Boston

Product Details

Dalkey Archive Press
Publication date:
French Literature Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Lydie Salvayre, daughter of refugees from the Spanish Civil War, grew up in the south of France, where she received a degree in psychiatry. In her mid-forties she published her first novel, The Declaration. She has since published nine other books, including Everyday Life and The Power of Flies, and has received numerous awards, including the Prix Hermes and the Prix Novembre.

William Pedersen has lived abroad in France and Quebec City, and currently teaches French courses at the University of Illinois.

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