Monsieur de Bougrelon (Paperback)
A group of bored travelers in fin-de-siècle Amsterdam encounter an aging French dandy in a dank and dimly-lit bar. Having long ago imposed exile upon himself, M. de Bougrelon feverishly guides his compatriots on a tour of Holland's forgotten splendor. Between hasty reapplications of his makeup, which drips freely from his jowls, M. de Bougrelon reminisces on his debauched youth spent in the "heroic" company of his friend, Monsieur de Mortimer. Lorrain so coyly plumbs the depths of urban ennui and the limits of male companionship that it's hard to believe this slim novel came out in 1897.— From Brendan
Fiction. LGBT Studies. French Literature. Translated from the French by Eva Richter. In Jean Lorrain's MONSIEUR DE BOUGRELON, an eccentric, outmoded dandy leads ennui-filled French tourists around misty Amsterdam. Guiding them through sailors' bars, whorehouses, and costume galleries, Monsieur de Bougrelon recounts hallucinatory stories of his past and delves into his "heroic friendship" with his aristocratic companion Monsieur de Mortimer.
MONSIEUR DE BOUGRELON is a unique character: loquacious, proud, a leftover from an earlier age, wearing garish outfits and makeup that drips. To his speechless audience, he waxes nostalgic about his life as an exile in Holland, as well as what he calls "imaginary pleasures" obsessions with incongruous people, animals, and objects. These obsessions are often sexual or border on the sexual, leading to shocking, surreal scenes. MONSIEUR DE BOUGRELON also enthuses over his beautiful friend Monsieur de Mortimer, making this novella one of the rare works of the nineteenth century to broach homosexuality in a meaningful way, years before Jean Cocteau and Jean Genet.
Originally published in French in 1897, MONSIEUR DE BOUGRELON is now available in English translation for the first time. Its inventiveness and sheer decadence find kindred spirits in the novels of Comte de Lautreamont, Joris-Karl Huysmans, and even Louis-Ferdinand Celine, while the novella's indulgent language and unconventional vision of art and sex embody the best of fin-de-siecle literature. It is, in the novella's own words, a true "boudoir of the dead.