News from Herman Melville, “Death to Mud Lick”, Eric Eyre, “Son fils”, Justine Lévy… Our reading tips


This week, we dive into the complete news of Herman Melville, in the opioid scandal in the United States (Death to Mud Lick, by Eric Eyre), in the head of a distraught mother, that of Antonin Artaud (His son, by Justine Lévy), in the memory of a dramatic news item from the 1970s (In their night, by Perrine Lamy-Quique), and in “another story” of the XXe century (The Infinite Inquiry, by Pacôme Thiellement).

NEW. The complete Herman Melville

For most readers, Herman Melville (1819-1891) is Moby dick (1851), the great whaling, the epic struggle of Good against Evil. But the giant shadow of Moby dick has eclipsed, or almost, the rest of the work. In particular, the excellent short stories that Melville wrote from the 1850s. It is to remedy this injustice that Christian Garcin and Thierry Gillybœuf have decided to offer us the first complete edition of these short prose, retranslated by them.

The most striking (and least understood) is the one that opens the book, “Bartleby”, named after this famous copyist who “Would like not to” (“I would prefer not to”). Formerly a zealous worker, Bartleby now refuses all the tasks that one would like to entrust to him. Until doing nothing at all. And to take up residence in the offices of his dumbfounded boss. This one, oscillating between nervousness, pity, fear, repulsion and symbolic desire for murder, embodies the man struggling with irrational forces that he does not understand. He says his “Despair of not being able to remedy an organic and disproportionate evil”.

This organic and disproportionate evil haunts volume. Each short story is like a mini-laboratory where Melville exhibits his characters. He plunges them into a strangely hostile environment (elusive truth, dizzying duplicity of human beings, oppressive impression that what is being played out permanently escapes us…) and then he observes them. How do they react? Are they fighting against the established order? Are they trying to escape it? Are they resigned? We find all of Melville in these stories. His attraction to the unfathomable. His taste for elsewhere, his way of looking beyond appearances. To find … nothing. If this is what he and his friend Hawthorne called “The incredible malevolence of the universe”. Florence Noiville

“The Complete News” by Herman Melville, Editions Finitude, 832 p., € 35.

STORY. “Death to Mud Lick”, by Eric Eyre

At the end of the 1990s, pain relievers highly concentrated in addictive substances, hydrocodone and oxycodone, were authorized on the market and caused an alarming number of fatal overdoses due to these painkillers which make them powerfully dependent. If, for decades, American novels and films have documented Mafia networks and drug trafficking, an inexhaustible source of thrillers and detective stories, they are very rare to describe the recent turn taken by the consumption of narcotics in the United States. No gang wars or shootings, just a legal business – albeit just as deadly, with its crooked doctors and unscrupulous pharmacists.

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News from Herman Melville, “Death to Mud Lick”, Eric Eyre, “Son fils”, Justine Lévy… Our reading tips