As he bore a vague resemblance to the Emperor, the sailors on board the Hermann-Augustus Stoeffer had nicknamed him Napoleon. And so, for convenience, that is what we shall call him.
Besides, he was Napoleon. . . .
Napoleon has escaped from St. Helena, leaving a double behind him. Now disguised as the cabin hand Eugène Lenormand and enduring the mockery of the crew (Napoleon, they laughingly nickname the pudgy, hopelessly clumsy little man), he is on his way back to Europe, ready to make contact with the huge secret organization that will return him to power. But then the ship on which he sails is rerouted from Bordeaux to Antwerp. When Napoleon disembarks, he is on his own.
He revisits the battlefield of Waterloo, now a tourist destination. He makes his way to Paris. Mistakes, misunderstandings, and mishaps conduct our puzzled hero deeper and deeper into the mystery of Napoleon.
About the Author
Simon Leys (1935–2014) was the pen name of Pierre Ryckmans, who was born in Belgium and settled in Australia in 1970. He taught Chinese literature at the Australian National University and was Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Sydney from 1987 to 1993. Leys was a contributor to such publications as The New York Review of Books, Le Monde, and Le Figaro Littéraire, writing on literature and contemporary China. Among his books are Chinese Shadows, Other People’s Thoughts, and The Wreck of the Batavia & Prosper. In addition to The Death of Napoleon NYRB publishes The Hall of Uselessness, a collection of essays, and On the Abolition of All Political Parties, an essay by Simone Weil that Leys translated and edited. His many awards include the Prix Renaudot, the Prix Femina, the Prix Guizot, and the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction.
Patricia Clancy has received several translation prizes, including the British Independent Prize for Foreign Fiction for her co-translation of The Death of Napoleon and the Scott Moncrieff Prize for her 1999 translation of The Black Room at Longwood: Napoleon’s Exile on Saint Helena by Jean-Paul Kauffmann.