8 July 15 | Kaija Straumanis

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by Lori Feathers on Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic by Octave Mirbeau, translated by Justin Vicari and published by Dalkey Archive Press.

Now that the Women’s World Cup of Literature is nearing the final results, we’re resuming a less competitive path for reviews. Here’s the beginning of Lori’s:

Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous condition. Vasseur’s friends and acquaintances provide the material for his journal entries and they, like their respective stories, are connected only loosely—the characters through their relationships with Vasseur and his coterie; the stories in their common theme of man’s cruelty and injustice toward his fellow man.

For Vasseur the picturesque resort town in the Pyrenées does not offer the sensory calm prescribed by his doctor. Instead, when Vasseur looks out at the mountains he sees a foreboding presence, an enclosure that oppresses and suppresses, that draws to it discouragement and despair. An acquaintance tells Vasseur that landscapes are states of mind, and as Vasseur immerses himself (and us) in stories involving madness, dishonesty, and acts of despotism against the weak and poor, the shadows cast by the mountains weigh disturbingly upon Vasseur’s mind and his accumulating journal entries become darker by the day.

Go here to read the rest of the review.


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