The Salt Smugglers

The Salt Smugglers

by Gerard de Nerval
     
 

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First published as a feuilleton in a left-wing newspaper in 1850, The Salt Smugglers provides a political satire of the waning days of France’s short-lived Second Republic. With nods to Diderot and Sterne, this shaggy-dog story deals less with contraband salt smugglers than with the subversive power of fiction to transgress legal and esthetic boundaries. By…  See more details below

Overview

First published as a feuilleton in a left-wing newspaper in 1850, The Salt Smugglers provides a political satire of the waning days of France’s short-lived Second Republic. With nods to Diderot and Sterne, this shaggy-dog story deals less with contraband salt smugglers than with the subversive power of fiction to transgress legal and esthetic boundaries. By writing what he claimed was a purely documentary account of his picaresque adventures in search of an elusive book recording the true history of a certain seventeenth-century swashbuckler, Nerval sought to deride the press censors of the day who forbade the serial publication of novels in newspapers – and in the process he provocatively deconstructed existing distinctions between fact and fiction. Never before translated into English and still unavailable as a separately published volume in French, The Salt Smugglers is a pre-postmodern gem of experimental prose. Richard Sieburth’s vibrant translation and illuminating afterword remind us why Gérard de Nerval’s blend of sly irony and acerbic social criticism proved so inspiring to authors as various as Baudelaire, Proust, and Leiris.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
If ever a writer . . . sought to define himself painstakingly to himself, to grasp and bring light to the murky shadings, the deepest laws and most elusive impressions of the human soul, it was Gérard de Nerval. —Marcel Proust

Every intelligent English-speaking reader must be grateful to Richard Sieburth and Archi- pelago Books for rescuing from oblivion this gem of factual fiction, revealing a Nerval poised somewhere between the subversive Diderot and the vitriolic Voltaire. The Salt Smugglers now has pride of place in my ideal library. —Alberto Manguel

The octrois of reason exact a cruel tithe compounded of the flesh and blood of mankind. The arbitrary authority of fate casts our lives into Bastilles far more terrible than those stormed by revolutions. This is why we so love and admire all those salt smugglers of the spirit, all those bootleggers of contraband ideas who thumb their noses at the black-shirted guards of narrow logic. —Michel Leiris

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780980033069
Publisher:
Steerforth Press
Publication date:
08/28/2009
Edition description:
Translatio
Pages:
147
Sales rank:
1,257,322
Product dimensions:
8.12(w) x 6.70(h) x 0.40(d)

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Read an Excerpt

I fear it was quite foolhardy on my part to have promised you a few details concerning a curious figure who lived toward the end of the reign of Louis XIV. I know that contributors to the National are required to observe a virtually military precision, and I am accordingly determined to honor my commitment to the fullest of my capabilities; but unfortunately my resolve has been somewhat sidetracked by unforeseen circumstances. Only a month ago, I happened to be passing through Frankfurt. I had two days to kill, but being already acquainted with the place, there was little for me to do but wander through its principal streets which, as so happened

Meet the Author

Poet, storyteller, autobiographer, translator, and visionary, Gérard de Nerval (1808–55) explored the blurry boundaries between dream and reality, fact and fiction, imagination and madness in his groundbreaking writings. Nerval was a pioneering modernist, a precursor of the French Symbolists, and a vital influence on writers such as Marcel Proust, André Breton, and Antonin Artaud. His works include Voyage en Orient ( Journey to the Orient), Sylvie – which Umberto Eco deemed a "masterpiece," Les Filles du Feu (The Daughters of Fire), Les Illuminés (The Illuminati), and Aurélia – which opens with "Dream is a second life." Richard Sieburth’s translations include Gérard de Nerval’s Selected Writings, Friedrich Hölderlin’s Hymns and Fragments, Walter Benjamin’s Moscow Diary, Henri Michaux’s Emergences/ Resurgences and Stroke by Stroke, Gérard de Nerval’s The Salt Smugglers, Michel Leiris’ Nights as Day, Days as Night, and Gershom Scholem’s The Fullness of Time: Poems. His edition of Nerval’s Selected Writings won the 2000 PEN/Book-of-the-Month-Club Translation Prize. His recent translation of Maurice Scève’s Délie was a finalist for the PEN Translation Prize and the Weidenfeld Prize.

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