26 November 10 | Chad W. Post

The latest addition to our Reviews Section is a sharp critique by Adelaide Kuehn of Robert Pagani’s The Princess, the King, and the Anarchist, which was translated from the French by Helen Marx and published by Helen Marx Books.

Adelaide Kuehn is one of our interns this semester (and will be next semester as well, so expect to hear more from her) and is reading a ton of books from both Zulma and Les Allusifs. Over the past summer, Addie also had a chance to intern at the Villa Gillet during the International Forum on the Novel. (An event I’ve wanted to attend for years . . . )

Anyway, her review is a bit testy . . . which seems fitting to post today, post-Thanksgiving, in the midst of Black Friday, when most everyone is griping about crowds, our family, that missing flask of alcohol, the fact that the Lions always suck, the horridness of omnipresent holiday music, the ways in which 2010 was just as meh as 2009, the inevitable gift disappointment right around the corner, etc., etc.

So here’s her opening:

The Princess, the King, and the Anarchist by Robert Pagani follows the three characters in the title during a royal marriage turned violent. The novella is based on the assassination attempt of Spanish King Alfonso XIII and Victoria Eugenia on their wedding day in 1906, winding its way through the thoughts of the three main characters to portray the events leading up to the wedding day. The young, naive British Princess Mary Eugenia Victoria spends the entire novella first having to pee during the procession to the palace and then worrying about her wedding night because she has no understanding of basic human biology. The King Alfonso XIII is preoccupied by an insistent erection while he points out different buildings in Madrid as they move slowly to the palace. In the days leading up to the bombing the bitter and depressed anarchist, Fernando, wanders around Madrid cold and hungry.

The novella is intended to be a snapshot into the royal lifestyle but is so simplistic that it comes off as forced and unrealistic. Even though the Princess has blood all over her dress and sees bowels oozing at her feet, she feels a little bit nauseous but quickly recovers. The King is practically grateful for the disaster because he can cancel the planned dance and can get down to business with the princess. The whole thing is so improbable, which in itself is not so problematic but when combined with the bizarre sexual subtext of the novella, just does not add up.

Ouch. But definitely check out the full review if for no other reason than to read her bits about the wacky sex stuff in this novella . . . And Merry Christmas!

Comments are disabled for this article.
We're Not Here to Disappear
We're Not Here to Disappear by Olivia Rosenthal
Reviewed by Megan C. Ferguson

Originally published in French in 2007, We’re Not Here to Disappear (On n’est pas là pour disparaître) won the Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste and the Prix Pierre Simon Ethique et Réflexion. The work has been recently translated by Béatrice Mousli. . .

Read More >

The Queen's Caprice
The Queen's Caprice by Jean Echenoz
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

Even though the latest from Jean Echenoz is only a thin volume containing seven of what he calls “little literary objects,” it is packed with surprises. In these pieces, things happen below the surface, sometimes both literally and figuratively. As. . .

Read More >

French Concession
French Concession by Xiao Bai
Reviewed by Emily Goedde

Who is this woman? This is the question that opens Xiao Bai’s French Concession, a novel of colonial-era Shanghai’s spies and revolutionaries, police and smugglers, who scoot between doorways, walk nonchalantly down avenues, smoke cigars in police bureaus, and lounge. . .

Read More >

Anna Karenina
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

For the past 140 years, Anna Karenina has been loved by millions of readers all over the world. It’s easy to see why: the novel’s two main plots revolve around characters who are just trying to find happiness through love.. . .

Read More >

The Cold Song
The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann
Reviewed by David Richardson

Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .

Read More >

This Life
This Life by Karel Schoeman
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .

Read More >

A Dilemma
A Dilemma by Joris-Karl Hyusmans
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .

Read More >

Walker on Water
Walker on Water by Kristiina Ehin
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .

Read More >

The Nightwatches of Bonaventura
The Nightwatches of Bonaventura by Bonaventura
Reviewed by J. T. Mahany

Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .

Read More >

Pavane for a Dead Princess
Pavane for a Dead Princess by Park Min-Gyu
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .

Read More >