S: Semaines de Suzanne - The mix of American and French writers collaborating on S. concoct a humorous and beautiful exquisite corpse, or rather exquisite S., who embraces absurdity, black humor, and beauty—the perfect surrealist woman who fears neither sex nor the bohemian lifestyle

S. A Novel

Harry Mathews, Jean Echenoz, Mark Polizzotti, Florence Delay, Olivier Rolin, Sonja Greenlee, & Patrick Deville, S: Semaines de Suzanne, Brookline Books, 1997. [1991.]

"A joyful exercise in style by seven authors in total complicity." Le Monde    S., written in collaboration by a group of American and French writers, is at once a challenging literary collage and a novel of rare elegance and depth. With pathos, humor, and sheer verbal inventiveness, it imagines the extraordinary life and times of Suzanne—or Susie, or Susana, or Sue—an uncommonly resourceful woman who finds herself by turns the catalyst of a brutal murder, the obsession of a fanatical avant-garde poet, and the leader of a Cuban contraband ring. Although each of its seven episodes is by a different hand, the story retains a remarkable unity; the enigmatic Suzanne, seen in a variety of perspectives and fictional styles, emerges as an engagingly human, wholly unforgettable character.  Suzanne's story is a nonetheless checkered one: In Patrick Deville's bittersweet version, she is a Lolita exploring her nascent sexuality with a down-and-out magician. For Jean Echenoz, she is a young hellion in a particularly sordid band of delinquents. Sonja Greenlee envisions her in a moment of religious crisis, while Mark Polizzotti casts her as the muse of an insane literary rivalry. And in Harry Mathews's madcap finale, our heroine runs afoul of a haplessly vengeful ex-husband. An international cause celebre, S. has been translated into French, German, and Japanese. Now, its publication in English brings to America one of the most original and exhilarating novels of recent years.   "The mix of American and French writers collaborating on S. concoct a humorous and beautiful exquisite corpse, or rather exquisite S., who embraces absurdity, black humor, and beauty—the perfect surrealist woman who fears neither sex nor the bohemian lifestyle and whose identity is not mired in her ego but rather in fate, coincidence and love ... [S.] serves as a wonderful introduction to unfamiliar writers, as well as a delightful romp all its own." Rain Taxi 


Suzanne (aka Susie, Suze, Anna) is a wanted woman--wanted, that is, by men from Belgium to Cuba in these seven fast-paced vignettes from seven authors. Each chronicles another moment in the sly, petite brunette's eventful life, including her careers as thug, litterateuse and seductress, her religious crisis and a near-death experience as she drifts from country to country, year to year. She comes to life most vividly in Deville's ""Hocus-Pocus"" (the account of 13-year-old Susie's digital deflowering at the hands of a down-and-out magician) and in Mathews's (The Conversions; Cigarettes) encrypted tale of unrequited conjugal love, ""The Quevedo Cipher."" These disjointed fragments of a life story differ enough in tone and focus that, together, they tell less about Suzanne than about the varieties of passion she inspires. Why she inspires it is something of a mystery. A string of stock descriptions ( ""Her large eyes were blue and pleading"" etc.) and comparisons to Bonnie Parker make Suzanne seem only the latest in a long line of boilerplate femmes fatales bred and raised by cliche: she's beautiful, ruthless, tight-lipped about her past. But this kaleidoscopic chronicle has its own heady appeal, and the abrupt shifts in voice and style, its very disjointedness, may be the only way to communicate the unhinging effect of a woman who lives so completely in the shadow of her own sex appeal. (Sept.) FYI: S. was published in French in 1991 by Les Editions de Minuit. - Publishers Weekly

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