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Blues for a Black Cat & Other Stories (French Modernist Library) Paperback – 1 Mar 2001

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press; New edition edition (1 Mar. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803296096
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803296091
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 0.9 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 405,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"[This collection] displays Vian''s range from gallows humor to verbal fireworks, and happily serves to give visibility to this important writer."--"Publishers Weekly"

"Ultimately, "Blues for a Black Cat" is a collection of moral fables, albeit fables told in a cynical, mocking voice and set in a skewed version of the real world. Under the surface absurdity and verbal play, they offer serious indictments of human weakness and pretensions. Further, they reveal the spiritual emptiness just beneath our civilized facade. Vian''s blues are not only for a black cat, but for a society without meaning."--"Manoa"

"["Blues for a Black Cat"] brings back the nimble Vian in a collection of his short fiction, initially published as "Les Fourmis" in 1949. The work has the unmistakable flavor of the time and place, Claude Abadie''s jazz band, the coded and absurdist messages of rebellion, the wistful fables, verbal riffs and goofy anarchic encounters; the mise-en-scene includes an expiring jazzman who sells his sweat, a cat with a British accent and a piano that mixes a cocktail when "Mood Indigo" is played."--"Boston Globe"

About the Author

Boris Vian (1920-59), a trained engineer and jazz trumpet player, was a major literary figure in World War II France. Julia Older is the author or editor of many works. Her stories, translations, and poems have appeared in New Directions, the New Yorker, and many other journals.

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Format: Paperback
I'd never heard of Vian before but he appears to have had had a fascinating life according to the foreward... he wrote for Sartre's magazine les temps modernes, having seen Duke Ellington in concert at the age of 17 he was inspired to learn the trumpet and ended up a jazz trumpeter in a famous jazz orchestra and translated The Big Sleep for the French market.

I've never read anything quite like this before... a serious of short stories which on the surface seem normal (a plumber visiting to fix a bathroom, a soldier's eye view of the Normandy Landings, a talking cat...!) which each have a sprinkling of the absurd and whimsy throughout.

The following extract from Louis Malle's foreward is a brilliant summary of the book...."Blues for a Black Cat and Other Stories" provides a perfect introduction to Vian... These stories contain the pivotal characters and absurdist qualities germinal to his later novels and plays. Some stories... pave the way for Vian's blacker humour...Though boldy defiant, Vian always disguises social protest in vertiginous flights of fancy, quirky sexual encounters, and doomed romantic affairs. But his unique parody tends to heighten the masked terrors of war, poverty, ill health, and unemployment that hound the bizarre protaganists of these fablelike narratives."
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9272be04) out of 5 stars 1 review
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9291e6f0) out of 5 stars Literary rarity 25 Nov. 2007
By Henry Martin - Published on
Format: Paperback
In Blues for a black cat, Boris Vian's literary genius shines with rare intensity impossible to find in modern works. While I read a few of Vian's works in the past, revisiting this book was the perfect escape from the mundane world of today's literature. Without getting into any plot or revealing too much about this compilation of short stories, Blues for a black cat, is an insane, entertaining, humorous, profound, powerful avant-garde literary rarity. Vian's style remains unique decades after the original publication, and while seemingly incoherent on the surface, it is intentionally so. Vian plays with words and objects, breathing life into them, making them take on a life vastly different from what we are used to, changing directions and staying on track at the same time, and inserting a deep incision in to our consciousness. Through humor, Vian touches upon uneasy topics -- shallow interpersonal communications, lack of spirituality, empty lives... and above all, our humanity. Humanity, with its faults, seems to be a common thread throughout Vian's works (at least those I had the chance to read). The list of subjects in this book will be too long, but one story will forever remain, in my opinion, one of the best short stories written about WWII (or any war for that matter) -- Pins and Needles.
As Vian himself says: "Routine dulls impressions." Readers be assured, there is nothing dull about his writing. His prose is full of gems, his ramblings are amusing, his literary rebellion is unrepeated by the generations of writers that came after him. While not pure surrealism, his approach to reality, to make the most mundane breathe with a new life, is fascinating.
Julia Older's excellent translation finally brings this important piece to the English speaking audiences.
Blues for a black cat would be a great sample of Vian's work for those not familiar with this author.
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