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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Florence Delay, Patrick Deville,
Jean Echenoz, Sonja Greenlee,
Harry Mathews, Mark Polizzotti,
and Olivier Rolin

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the authors

To purchase S.

Title: S.
Authors: Harry Mathews, et al.
Genre: Novel
Written: 1991 (Eng. 1997)
Length: 97 pages
Original in: French
Availability: S. - US
S. - UK
S. - Canada
Semaines de Suzanne - France
  • French title: Semaines de Suzanne
  • Translated by Mark Polizzotti (Deville, Echenoz) and Matthew Escobar (Delay, Rolin)

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Our Assessment:

B : genial multi-authored entertainment

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Spring/1998 Thomas Lecky

  From the Reviews:
  • "Names and places, objects and actions all refract within the framework. What occurs as we look through this latticework of overlaid detail is at turns tragic, comic, and consistently mysterious. (...) The collaboration is inventive and the collage coheres because the different views of Suzanne and her world, seen at various times, are surrounded by the solidly unstable chaos of language." - Thomas Lecky, Review of Contemporary Fiction

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:

       Seven authors, all writing about S. -- one episode per author, taking her from her early teens far into adulthood. Two languages (some of the pieces -- and the collection as a whole -- were first presented in French), two translators to add to the mix. But it all holds together fairly well.
       S. -- that's Suzanne, or Susie, Sue, and Susan, as she's also known --, the wayward daughter of the bartender Fotopolis, always figuring prominently in these tales, each of which is told in the first person by yet another person coming into contact with her.
       This is a playful piece of collective fiction, seven authors stringing along poor Suzanne, twisting her to their ends (as their narrators are usually twisted to hers) in generally creative and amusing fashion.
       She certainly makes an impression on them all. Patrick Deville starts off as a magician whom the then still only thirteen-and-a-half-year-old Miss Fotopolis wants to blackmail into helping her flee home for wilder and better things. He doesn't, but he remains haunted by the precocious lass in this surprisingly poignant, light-fingered tale.
       Jean Echenoz -- not surprisingly -- offers a more violent episode in "It pays to have friends", while Olivier Rolin offers something with a more literary bent, introducing Quevedo (and other Spanish literature) into the mix.
       Sonja Greenlaw's contribution is narrated by Fotopolis' new wife, while the final piece is Harry Mathews' "The Quevedo cipher", the tale of the last S.-seeker, presented with a few Oulipo-twists.
       S. remains largely always elusive, her identity, like her name, vague. She marries several times but isn't the settling (down or otherwise) kind.
       Men practically fall over themselves for her, but this power she exerts isn't quite satisfaction enough for her. But the men whose lives she touches remain awed, impressed, and moved -- and she knows it. As she tells Lothar Schmidt (in Mark Polizzotti's "Anthropoetics"):

     "You're going to cost me everything," I said.
     "You'll get your money's worth," she replied.
       S. is an amusing little entertainment. The pieces vary in interest, but they're all quite good. The inside jokes and self-referential clues help make it more of a cohesive whole, but S. herself remains a curious hybrid. Still, it's all good fun (some of it quite clever), and the language and fictional games and the brevity of the whole make for a decent quick read.

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S.: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       The seven authors of S. include some of France's leading contemporary writers, as well as the redoubtable Harry Mathews.

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© 2003-2010 the complete review

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