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No Tomorrow (New York Review Books Classics) (English and French Edition) Paperback – October 13, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
This slender tale of adultery written in 1777 has been rendered into graceful English by Proust translator Davis. The tale encompasses a breathless night for a 20-year-old aristocrat who is spirited away by Mme. de T— from the opera, where he is waiting on another woman, and taken to the lady's home outside of Paris. The luxurious chateau belongs to Mme. de T—'s estranged husband, though the husband and wife are apparently to be reconciled. The young man realizes he is to entertain the wife after her husband goes to bed, which he does until dawn, when his glorious night is ended by the arrival of the lady's previous lover, Marquis de —. In his introduction, Peter Brooks says the story is about the ethics of pleasure, and while scintillating and theatrical, the storytelling is too saccharine to be satisfying. (Oct.)
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"Denon's tale portrays the Epicurean aspects of slowness" --The Boston Globe
"One of the loveliest pieces of French prose." --Milan Kundera, The Art of the Novel
"A tale of adulterous love told with impeccable discretion. Balzac like it so much that he cited it in full in his Physiologie du mariage, warning off husbands while recommending it to bachelors as 'a delicious painting of manners of the last century." --The New Oxford Companion to Literature in French
"Captures with concision and panache the spirit of Libertinage so central to eighteenth-century French sociability...No Tomorrow is a tour de force of disabused analysis summarizing all the manipulations, illustions, and self-deceptions which were the essence of eighteenth-century libertinage." --Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature
Top customer reviews
I guess I'll read it five or six times tonight before bed.
Often historical novels or Hollywood films get all the details are correct but the thoughts and emotions of the characters are modern. I understand that this makes the characters more accessible to modern audiences but I hunger for authenticity.
Vivant Denon was no ordinary author. In fact, "No Tomorrow" is the only fiction he is known to have written. The rest of his works were travelogues. He was an engraver, a courtier and a diplomat. He accompanied Napoleon on his military campaign in Egypt. Denon was the first Director of French Museums. He was largely responsible for the collections in the Louvre. It is safe to say that Vivant Denon was no hack writer.
This brief tale of a young man's seduction by an older married woman is a window into the past. The opera house where they first meet is seen through the eyes of an author who had spent many hours in opera houses. Their long flight by coach to her husband's secluded estate necessitates changing horses multiple times much as we would refill the tanks in our cars. Just as we use water to symbolize intimacy, the lovers consummate their affair to the sounds of a stream that runs past the summer house where they sought privacy.
On an emotional level, modern readers may be shocked to learn that sex in France during that era was regarded very differently from our own more puritanical outlook. This is the authenticity that I seek. To be able to vicariously experience the emotions and outlook of a world so different from our own. Not to be titillated, but to actually live, however briefly, in that time.
"No Tomorrow" is not graphic. It is not pornography. It is more dreamlike than erotic. It is a story in the Romantic tradition. An age that ended with the French Revolution and the guillotine. Knowing this as you read it lends poignancy to the story.