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Blues for a Black Cat and Other Stories (French Modernist Library) Paperback – April 1, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ten avant-garde fables of serious whimsy, ushered in by Older's useful introduction, bibliography and discography, are culled here from Vian's rich output. During his brief life (1920-59) author and musician Vian wrote novels, plays, poetry, songs and libretti, contributed essays to Jazz Hot in Paris, and translated American works (by Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain) that shaped his own writing. Playful and tough, fresh and zany, Vian generally speaks from a moral stance. "Pins and Needles" treats the horrifying absurdity of war and the Allied rescue of 1944 with wacky grisliness. In "The Plumber" a fast-talking workman browbeats a tenant and wreaks chaos with needless repairs. The title of "Good Students" refers to young police cadets who study the rule book on how to control and brutalize an innocent populace. "Blue Fairy Tale" is a tale of betrayal during a motor jaunt, a format evoking the fictional popularity of the automobile in the period. The title story features an articulate, garrulous cat stuck in a sewer, while drinkers turn out of a nearby bar to save it. The collection displays Vian's range from gallows humor to verbal fireworks, and happily serves to give visibility to this important writer.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Jazz musician, translator of American hard-boiled detective fiction, librettist, pataphysician, Vian (1920-59) was a sort of anti-Camus: an outlaw, a rebel, a dashingly handsome existentialist cafe-figure, yet also a trickster with the lightest of touches, everything about him made of whimsy and enthusiasm, and hardly a dark shading to be found. His prose is a sideshow rather than a main event--and thus Nebraska's French series does well here to give it to us in a small buffet. The form of the detective story is one Vian used often, just so that he could subvert it (``Suddenly, the silhouette of the Major, furious at being left out of the story, rose behind him and seized Andre by the collar. His shoulders hitched up, arms askew, and head forward, Andre gesticulated from a few meters above the railing, crying, `Let me go!' But because the Major was invisible, Andre was the only one who knew the Major had lifted him. As for everyone else, they thought he'd jumped into the river''). Other stories introduce play upon a single name as hip motif enough (``Jacques Teagarden'') or unravel small yarn balls of absurd non sequiturs. As well rendered by Julia Older, this Vian sampler--in its first English translation--is just about a perfect dose for reintroduction of this attractively inconsequential but easy-to- take, classically bohemian figure. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: French Modernist Library
  • Paperback: 118 pages
  • Publisher: Bison Books (April 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803296096
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803296091
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #370,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Henry Martin on November 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
In Blues for a black cat, Boris Vian's literary genius shines with rare intensity impossible to find in modern works. While I read a few of Vian's works in the past, revisiting this book was the perfect escape from the mundane world of today's literature. Without getting into any plot or revealing too much about this compilation of short stories, Blues for a black cat, is an insane, entertaining, humorous, profound, powerful avant-garde literary rarity. Vian's style remains unique decades after the original publication, and while seemingly incoherent on the surface, it is intentionally so. Vian plays with words and objects, breathing life into them, making them take on a life vastly different from what we are used to, changing directions and staying on track at the same time, and inserting a deep incision in to our consciousness. Through humor, Vian touches upon uneasy topics -- shallow interpersonal communications, lack of spirituality, empty lives... and above all, our humanity. Humanity, with its faults, seems to be a common thread throughout Vian's works (at least those I had the chance to read). The list of subjects in this book will be too long, but one story will forever remain, in my opinion, one of the best short stories written about WWII (or any war for that matter) -- Pins and Needles.
As Vian himself says: "Routine dulls impressions." Readers be assured, there is nothing dull about his writing. His prose is full of gems, his ramblings are amusing, his literary rebellion is unrepeated by the generations of writers that came after him. While not pure surrealism, his approach to reality, to make the most mundane breathe with a new life, is fascinating.
Julia Older's excellent translation finally brings this important piece to the English speaking audiences.
Blues for a black cat would be a great sample of Vian's work for those not familiar with this author.
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