The Book of Monelle
A dark, haunted book by a man who was a secret literary influence on an astonishing number of great avante-garde writers. Schwob wrote this about, and for, a young girl of the streets whose death shattered him. He channels both the thunder of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra and the false innocence of fairy tales into something hair-raisingly weird and powerful.—Recommended by Matt, City Lights Books
When Marcel Schwob published The Book of Monelle in French in 1894, it immediately became the unofficial bible of the French Symbolist movement, admired by such contemporaries as Stéphane Mallarmé, Alfred Jarry and André Gide. A carefully woven assemblage of legends, aphorisms, fairy tales and nihilistic philosophy, it remains a deeply enigmatic and haunting work more than a century later, a gathering of literary and personal ruins written in a style that evokes both the Brothers Grimm and Friedrich Nietzsche. The Book of Monelle was the result of Schwob’s intense emotional suffering over the loss of his love, a “girl of the streets” named Louise, whom he had befriended in 1891 and who succumbed to tuberculosis two years later. Transforming her into the innocent prophet of destruction, Monelle, Schwob tells the stories of her various sisters: girls succumbing to disillusionment, caught between the misleading world of childlike fantasy and the bitter world of reality. This new translation reintroduces a true fin-de-siècle masterpiece into English.