THE SUNDAYS OF JEAN DEZERT by Jean De La Ville De Mirmont
Translated by André Naffis-Sahely
Literary fiction is littered with the corpses of loveable misanthropes. Few, however, stack up next to the absolute nihilism of Jean de La Ville De Mirmont’s semi-autobiographical Jean Dezért. Living in a small flat, employed as a governmental drone, Dézert is resigned to the absolute meaninglessness of his existence. What little spare time he has, he spends wandering the streets of Paris, crushed by the weight of ennui. Come Sunday, he tries to impose some kind of structure, trusting his fate to whatever flyer he finds, rocking up to all sorts of oddball places. They all end in a disaster of his making. He is, as we used to say in the law game, shit at life. Not that he cares. A Bartleby writ large, he does not refuse to turn up to work so much as to life itself.
It makes for uneasy but enjoyable reading. At times, I couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of his exploits. At others, I despaired with him. It’s hard not to wonder whether, had the author not been killed so young, had he gone on to write a massive tome, Dezért would be held in the same esteem as Melville’s scrivener.
The Sundays of Jean Dezert by Jean De La Ville De Mirmont (Tr. André Naffis-Sahely)
Wakefield Press, 2019 (First published 1914)