books / new titles / red grass
(TamTam Books, 2013)
Boris Vian (1920-1959) was a magnificent jack-of-all-trades--actor, jazz critic, engineer, musician, playwright, songwriter, translator--not to mention the leading social light of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés scene. His third major novel, Red Grass, is a provocative narrative about an engineer, Wolf, who invents a bizarre machine that allows him to revisit his past and erase inhibiting memories. A frothing mixture of Breton, Freud, Carroll, Hammett, Kafka and Wells, Red Grass is one of Vian's finest and most enduring works, a satire on psychoanalysis--which Vian wholly and vigorously disapproved of--that inflects science fiction with dark absurdity and the author's great wit. Much in the novel can be regarded as autobiography, as our hero attempts to liberate himself from past traumatic events in the arenas of religion, social life and--of course--sex. Red Grass is translated by Vian scholar Paul Knobloch.