TamTam Books News

Monday, October 04, 2004:

Boris Vian’s AUTUMN IN PEKING (L'Automne à Pékin)
ISBN 0-9662346-4-2 TamTam Books $18
Translated from the French by Paul Knobloch
Introduction by Marc Lapprand

Boris Vian (1920-1959) was a jack of all trades – although unfortunately his name was Boris and "Boris of all trades" never took off as a turn of phrase. But nevertheless Vian was a great songwriter, playwright, singer, jazz critic and, of course novelist so it should have been Boris instead of Jack. Vian’s 1947 novel Autumn in Peking (L'Automne à Pékin) is perhaps Vian’s most slapstick work, with an added amount of despair in its exotic recipe for a violent cocktail drink.

The story takes place in the imaginary desert called Exopotamie where all the leading characters take part in the building of a train station with tracks that go nowhere. Houses and buildings are destroyed to build this unnecessary structure – and in Vian’s world waste not….make not.

In Alistair Rolls’ pioneering study of Vian’s novels, "The Flight of the Angels," he expresses that Exopotamie is a thinly disguised version of Paris, where after the war the city started changing its previous centuries of architecture to something more…modern. Yes, something dull to take the place of what was exciting and mysterious.

Vian, in a mixture of great humor and unequal amount of disgust, introduces various ‘eccentric’ characters in this ‘desert’ adventure, such as Anne and Angel who are best friends; and Rochelle who is in love and sleeps with Anne, while Angel is madly in love with her.

Besides the trio there is also Doctor Mangemanche; the archeologist Athanagore Porphyroginite, his aide, Cuivre; and Pipo – all of them in a locality similar to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, where there is a tinge of darkness and anything is possible, except for happiness.

This is the first English translation of L'Automne à Pékin.

Here are what critics have said about Boris Vian and Autumn in Peking.

"Vian had so rich a career that people overlooked the fact that he was one of the most powerful writers to have appeared in France since the war"

Roger Shattuck

"Vian is one of the great iconoclasts, and more than that, one of the great comic iconoclasts."

J.K.L. Scott From Dreams to Despair: An Integrated Reading of the Novels of Boris Vian

L'Automne a Pekin could well become one of the classics of a literature which, after having exhausted with a uniformly accelerated movement all the nuances of the sinister, from Romanticism to Naturalism and from Socialism to Mysticism, notes all of a sudden that it winds up in the desert of Exopotamie; a literature where one is finally permitted to laugh!"

Alain Robbe-Grillet

"Let the entire College pay attention to this work, let it uncover its riches: they are incalculable. A great lesson that Satrap Boris Vian gives us in L'Automne a Pekin, using, moreover, a sacred language. L'Automne a Pekin is one of the rare novels of our time which renders words their literal sense without suffering from the prejudice furnished by other possible means."

Noel Arnaud

The release date: November 8, 2004

Tosh // 8:41 AM

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