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On Elegance While Sleeping (Argentinian Literature Series) Paperback – November 30, 2010


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Product Details

  • Series: Argentinian Literature Series
  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press (November 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1564786048
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564786043
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #667,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A hidden genius of Argentine literature." -- Le Monde

About the Author

Emilio Lascano Tegui (1887-1966), a self-styled Viscount, is one of the most provocative and singular figures in Argentine literature, making his way through life as a writer, journalist, curator, painter, decorator, diplomat, mechanic, gentleman, orator (known to make incendiary speeches in perfect rhymed verse), and even a dentist. His position as a translator for the International Post Office brought him to Europe, where he began his literary career.

Idra Novey is a poet and translator. She is a lecturer at the Creative Writing Program at Columbia University. Her work has appeared in the Paris Review, The Believer, and Ploughshares, and her collection The Next Country appeared in 2008.

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Customer Reviews

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By pawpaw on January 31, 2011
Format: Paperback
There isn't much information about this book (or author) on the web yet. Every site has the same description found inside the book and on the back cover, so you've got to trust that it has potential. Luckily, it does.

Reading this feels like meeting the weird [...]child of The Stranger and The Tropic of Cancer. Taking the morose, existential tone of the former and combining it with the grotesque, lurid details of the latter.
It's 172 pages but because it's written like journal entries, you can easily burn through the book in a couple of hours. Many pages only contain a paragraph or two, making the length of the book very deceiving.
There isn't much to say about the content that you can't read in the editorial review, but I know that if you enjoy Miller, Céline or Camus (even to a certain extent, Hemingway and some of the other expatriates), I think you'll find great pleasure in this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By G. Dawson on March 16, 2011
Format: Paperback
Emilio Lascano Tegui (1887-1966) was, at various times during his eventful life, an Argentinean, a Parisian, a self-labeled viscount, a translator, a journalist, a curator, a painter, a decorator, a diplomat, a mechanic, an orator, a dentist, and, fortunately for us, a writer. Tegui's 1925 novel On Elegance While Sleeping, a cult classic in Argentina, Tegui's home country, is now available for the first time to an English-speaking audience (thanks to Dalkey Archive Press and translator Idra Novey). This genre-defying novel is framed as a four-year series of chronologically-ordered diary entries composed by an unnamed French infantryman in the late 1800s. Like its author, this novel's narrator concerns himself with a bit of everything, including the proverbial kitchen sink (or, should I say, the cultivation of carrots). The entries touch on the themes of life, illness (specifically, syphilis), death, sex, gender, memory, crime, and literature, to name just a few. Seamlessly shifting among present reflections, past recollections, and stories within stories, the entries examine the mundane (one begins "Cotton mittens bother me when they're dyed black.") as well as the sublime ("Nothing spreads sadness like popularity.") and range in length from just two sentences to almost seven pages. The result is a work of art that's impossible to categorize. Is it autobiography? Allegory? A crime novel? An experiment in form? In a word, yes.

Just before we lose our bearings wandering among this heady collection of seemingly aimless thoughts--that is, at the perfect moment--On Elegance While Sleeping changes registers. The novel adopts a foreboding tone as the diary entries slowly coalesce into the thoughts of a man intent on committing murder.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Guttersnipe Das on January 18, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First of all, how brilliant to declare oneself a viscount. It never occurred to me that I could simply give myself a title. Then again, Lascano Tegui also declared himself to be a dentist - quite a scary idea!

In a similar way, this book is called a novel. It is true that, after several rereadings, I began to appreciate the peculiar and unnerving way that images and obsessions appear and return, throwing out shoots and warped fruits. Still, the hints of plot, the murder at the end - these are not among the principal pleasures or satisfactions of the book.

This book will appeal to fans of Lautreamont and Poe, and above all to anyone who has read Baudelaire's prose poems in Paris Spleen a dozen times and wished that there were more. Here are dozens of prose poems, anecdotes, contemplations and oddities, like the fragments of a surreal memoir.

There's no shortage of gruesome details -- or marvelous black humor. Best of all, there is a tendency to now and then toss out casual insights that seem absolutely essential. This narrator may be mad but his treasure is real.

"A broken watch ticks more often than one in perfect condition. It lives more." (72) Or: "Novelists overplay their hands when they put an end to their characters with some catastrophe - a terrible fire, a murder, what have you. They don't trust in the asphyxiating monotony of everyday life." (71)

I am glad to be reminded of the dangers of generalizing in brothels, as well as the fact that a book, that infamous fetish object, is simply "the vegetal pulp left behind by man".

Dalkey Archive Press is a heroic outfit to which I am deeply grateful. (Without Dalkey: no Flann O'Brien, no Juan Goytisolo, no Harry Matthews, no Diane Williams, no Coleman Dowell!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By makifat on April 23, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
*Potential Spoilers*

The narrator/diarist of On Elegance While Sleeping personifies a particular type current in the yellow literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries - that of the immoralist. The Dalkey Archive translation makes reference to Wilde's Dorian Gray and Lautreamont's (another South American of invented nobility) Maldoror, and we also see in the novel a direct association with the character Lafcadio in Gide's Caves du Vatican (The Vatican Cellars). We perceive in these works the literary reflection of the precocious violence of the naïve genius Rimbaud, and the contempt for bourgeois society evident in the works of Jarry and the brief florescence of the Dadaist agitators, with their stated goal of disturbing the ceremony. In his Foundations of Modern Art (1931, revised 1952), Ozenfant draws parallels between Gide's antihero and the surrealists, noting commonality in "their particular turn of thought: anxious, elegant, melancholy, tangential, incidental, elliptical, their taste for evoking emotion through what is singular: their oneiric glossolalia: and their interest in the unmotivated act." These are also the characteristics of the pale criminal with the delicate hands at the heart of Tegui's novel.

This decadent novel indeed opens on a surreal note. In his diary entries, the protagonist rarely speaks of immediate experience, but rather uses the journal as a means of reminiscence. He recalls his youth in the town of Bougival, down the Seine from Paris.
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