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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Monsieur de Bougrelon

Jean Lorrain

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To purchase Monsieur de Bougrelon

Title: Monsieur de Bougrelon
Author: Jean Lorrain
Genre: Novel
Written: 1897 (Eng. 2016)
Length: 127 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Monsieur de Bougrelon - US
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  • French title: Monsieur de Bougrelon
  • Translated and with an Afterword by Eva Richter

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Our Assessment:

B : atmospheric decadence

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Saturday Review . 21/2/1903 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Certainly, an extraordinary story, and told in M.Lorrain's most brilliant style." - Saturday Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The eponymous Monsieur de Bougrelon describes himself as:

An old dandy forgotten in a century of money and gross appetites, an old puppet who has taken refuge amongst the phantoms
       He presents himself -- foists himself -- on a group of French tourists who have come to Amsterdam (and from whose perspective the novel is narrated, in the first person plural). Though an exile himself, when they first see him it is as: "the epic silhouette of this misty country, of this city of dreams", and he invites himself to serve as their guide over the next few days -- though what's he's really offering is himself ("in full regalia"), and his stories.
       Occasionally they admit to themselves: "We were dealing with a madman", but Monsieur de Bougrelon's charms and enthusiasm are also undeniable. If nothing else, his tall tales -- beginning with the absurd story of what led him to flee France, when hard-headed bosom buddy Monsieur de Mortimer prevailed, in unlikeliest of fashions, in a duel -- make for decent entertainment. So too for the reader.
       The travelers see him as: "the product of our ennui, of an atmosphere of fog and a few bouts of Schiedammer-induced drunkenness". The Amsterdam Lorrain leads his characters through is shrouded in mists, dank as much as decadent: "The city is all windows, you say, but there are no doors" -- and Monsieur de Bougrelon seems to offer an entrée into this other-world. But in parting he reminds them:
(P)eople do not come back to Holland. The dreams people take away from this place, the memories of it, are more beautiful than the reality; one must never go back.
       Monsieur de Bougrelon's tall tales with their absurdist elements fit the general fin de siècle-atmosphere, while his womanizing claims are belied by the obviously rather closer relationship with his true soul-(and surely other) mate, Monsieur de Mortimer.
       Monsieur de Bougrelon speaks of:
     Imaginary pleasure, Messieurs, as only this cloudy country's atmosphere of dreams and fog can produce !
       He sustains it, often enough, but the cracks and weariness also show through; the conclusion -- a last glimpse of Monsieur de Bougrelon in an unexpected venue and role -- is revealing, as are the characters' reactions to it, a mutually agreed disregard of reality.
       "I am idea in an era that has no more of them", Monsieur de Bougrelon observes, and Lorrain's creation -- both character and book -- echo deeply in lost time. Despite all the fog, despite (but also because of) his age -- he's almost on his last legs --, Monsieur de Bougrelon is an evocative character, and place and time and ineffable loss are well-conveyed in this melancholy tale (and its enjoyably warped humor).
       A fine example of the decadent novel.

- M.A.Orthofer, 13 October 2016

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Monsieur de Bougrelon: Reviews: Jean Lorrain: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Jean Lorrain lived 1855 to 1906.

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