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The High Life
Adolphe Marlaud's rule of conduct is simple: live as little as possible so as to suffer as little as possible. For Marlaud, this involves carrying out a meager existence on rue Froidevaux in Paris, tending to his father's grave in the cemetery across the street, and earning the outlines of a living through a part-time job at the funerary shop on the corner. It does not, however, take into account the intentions of the obese concierge of his building, who has set her widowed sights on his diminutive frame, and whose aggressive overtures are to trigger a burlesque and obscene tragedy. Originally published in 1979, "The High Life" introduces cult French author Jean-Pierre Martinet into English. It is a novella that perfectly outlines Martinet's dark vision: the terrors of loneliness, the grotesque buffoonery of sexual relations, the essential humiliation of the human condition and the ongoing trauma of twentieth-century history.
Jean-Pierre Martinet (1944-1993) wrote only a handful of novels, including what is largely regarded as his masterpiece, the psychosexual study of horror and madness, "Jerome." Largely ignored during his lifetime, his star has only recently begun to shine in France, and he is now regarded as an overlooked French successor to Dostoyevsky. Reading like an unsettling love child of Louis-Ferdinand Celine and Jim Thompson, Martinet's work explores the grimly humorous possibilities of unlimited pessimism.