Portrait of the Artist as a Young Ape: A Caprice

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Dalkey Archive Press, 1995 - Fiction - 121 pages
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Like James Joyce s and Dylan Thomas s similar titles, Butor s novel is autobiographical in nature and explores the way a writer develops. Shortly after World War II a young man travels to a castle in Franconia housing the second largest private library in Germany. There he discovers a multitude of stimuli for his imagination: a castle once the site of celebrations and executions, the old library, mineral collections, rooms decorated in mythological themes, and an exiled count who has a passion for highly original games of solitaire. Days are spent in the library steeping himself in the literature of alchemy, whose great theme was transformation. At night, the young man dreams he is in an adventure that begins as a vampire story and ends as a tale from The Thousand and One Nights, in which a young man is transformed into an ape. Bordering between autobiography and elements of Gothic horror, this caprice shows the development as a young man of one of France s most important contemporary novelists during and just after World War II. Though as readers we have as hard a time as Butor himself in separating fact from fantasy, we see the young Butor on the edges of the intellectual and artistic circles of his time (Martin Heidegger and Andre Breton make brief appearances), but we witness this in an ominous, sinister atmosphere where we expect Dracula to step from around the corner at any moment, accompanied by Abbott and Costello. In brief, this is autobiography as if invented by H. P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker, and Edgar Allan Poe, and then as reinvented by the French New Novelists, with one further layer supplied by Mel Brooks: just what autobiography should read like when recapturing the sense of life in Nazi-dominated Europe where history, fact, illusion, myth, dreams, legends, black magic, and memory become indistinguishable. First published in 1967, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Ape may well be one of the most captivating works about the growth of a writer s imagination."
 

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PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG APE

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

Butor's self-styled ``caprice,'' first published in 1967 in France, is an autobiographical fiction in vintage nouveau roman style—though the refracted, elliptical, thickly descriptive narrative isn't ... Read full review

PORTRAIT OF ARTIST AS YOUNG AP

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

A champion of the French nouveau roman, Butor here describes his development as a writer, but this novel does not resemble Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. In post-World War II Germany ... Read full review

Contents

The Color of Eyes
9
Hungarian
12
Days of Reading
14
Turba Philosophorum
20
The Invitation
25
The Holy Empire
29
Going There
31
The Very Elderly Man
35
The Parapet Walk
65
The Metamorphosis
75
Mundus Subterraneus
80
Games of Solitaire
93
Orbits
97
The Tournament
104
The German Museum
107
Banishment
117

The Library
40
The Student Maiden
47
Mineralogy
50
The Forester
60
Farewell
120
The Other Journey
123
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About the author (1995)

Michel Marie François Butor was born in Mons-en-Baroeul. He studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, graduating in 1947. He has taught in Egypt, Manchester, Salonika, the United States, and Geneva. He has won many literary awards for his work, including the Prix Apollo, the Prix Fénéon and the Prix Renaudot.

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