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No Tomorrow by Vivant Denon

No Tomorrow (1812)

by Vivant Denon

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
A very short story that was at least probably written by Vivant Denon, who is better known for having assembled the art Napoleon stole while waging war across Europe in the Louvre. It’s touted as being a masterpiece of seduction and stylishly erotic, but I have to say, it’s so incredibly short that there isn’t enough time for true seduction to take place. It was refreshing that the book was not misogynistic as others in this genre and time period often are, and I liked how the woman was in control, keeping her husband and her official lover under control while she manipulated a young man into a tryst one evening. However, it still reads as male fantasy, and a pretty thin one at that. There is something to be said for the simplicity, and indeed, the morality of the exchange of pleasure and desire without entanglement or regard for ‘tomorrow’.

Just this quote, on ‘after’:
“Besides, I’ve exhausted all the resources a heart possesses to bind you. What could you still hope for from me now? What could you still desire? And if a woman leaves a man with nothing to desire or to hope, what will become of her? I have given you everything I could; perhaps one day you will forgive me for the pleasures that, once the moment of intoxication has passed, return you to the severity of your judgment.” ( )
1 vote gbill | Feb 8, 2017 |
This slim novel (more of a short story at only 32 pages in length) is an 18th-century French classic. The cover blurbs place it alongside Dangerous Liaisons, and while it does have its witty moments and is definitely in the libertine mode, it lacks the emotional drama of the former. A man recalls an episode of his youth, his seduction by a married woman. Initially, he assumes that the intrigue is in avoiding her aging husband, but as morning breaks, he learns that he has been a decoy, and perhaps a provocation, for her lover, the Marquis.

The New York Review of Books includes both the French version and an English adaptation by fiction writer Lydia Davis, as well as a lengthy but informative introduction by scholar Peter Cook. While there are some wry, witty moments and several instances of fine, subtle writing, overall, I was not too impressed. ( )
1 vote Cariola | May 7, 2012 |
On my first read, I was a little underwhelmed. But on a re-read, I felt I was able to appreciate it more. Partially for turns of phrases like this:

"The moon was setting, and its last rays soon lifted the veil of a modesty that was, I think, becoming rather tiresome."

And sentences that just seem so true like this:

"Love demands multiple tokens: it thinks it hasn't won anything as long as something is still left to be won."

Partially for all the indirect stuff in here. All the unspoken things alluded to and in the background. For example, here's the opening paragraph:

I was desperately in love with the Comtesse de ______ ; I was twenty years old and I was naive. She deceived me, I got angry, she left me. I was naive, I missed her. I was twenty years old, she forgave me, and, because I was twenty years old, because I was naive – still deceived, but no longer abandoned, I thought myself to be the best-loved lover, and therefore the happiest of men. She was a friend of Mme de T______, who seemed to have some designs on me yet did not wish to compromise her dignity. As we shall see, Mme de T______ possessed certain principles of decency to which she was scrupulously attached.

That paragraph is so wonderfully confusing and circuitous, that I didn't really think much about its meaning on first read. The rest of the story does not concern Comtesse de _____. Instead, the main character (who is older now) is being slowly seduced by Mme de T_____. Then, lost in all the paragraphs somewhere, Mme de T____ talks about Comtesse de _____:

she's a Proteus of forms, she charms with her manners--she attracts, she eludes. How many roles I've seen her play! Between you and me, how many dupes surround her! How she has mocked the Baron!...How many tricks she has played on the Marquis! When she took up with you, it was to regain her hold over two overly imprudent rivals who were about to expose her. She had accommodated them too much, they had had time to observe her; eventually, they would have caused a scandal. But she brought you onto the scene, gave them a hint of your attentions, led them to pursue her anew, drove you to despair, pitied you, consoled you--and all four of you were content. Oh what power an artful woman has over you!"

Only on second read did I connect what Mme de T___ said here with the first paragraph and come out with a fuller view of what the main character was talking about in that first paragraph. His relationship with the Comtesse is otherwise veiled. Also, it is another layer of fun to note that "artful woman" line since that is exactly what Mme de T_____ is also. "all four of you were content" could refer to the current story's actors (Mme de T___, her husband, her lover, and the main character). A little later down the page, the now older/wiser narrator realizes this:

"I felt that a blindfold had just been lifted from my eyes, and I didn't see the new one with which it was replaced." ( )
  JimmyChanga | Jul 13, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The introduction section of this book is excellent, giving the background of the author, Denon (De Non), and the times. It discusses society’s changes resulting from the French Revolution and how these political changes affected the interpretation and view of literary works, such as this story. ( )
  smc1 | Jan 10, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A delightful piece of French froth, published first in 1777 by the man better remembered as the director of the Louvre. It is the story of a young man, in love with one older woman, and going off with another to make love in her husband's home where she hasn't been for eight years. The three have dinner, although the sickly husband only takes milk. He goes to bed early, and his wife and her young friend amble in the gardens, and finally make passionate love. The woman's real lover appears, who is loved by the object of the young man's affections.

It is not clear to me why the husband is so welcoming of these lovers, or why he accepts his wife again. Why she chose to seduce the young man and present that fait accompli to her lover, who also appears, is quite a mystery. The woman loved by the young man is only alluded to but does not appear.

It reminds me of The Rules of the Game, or La Ronde, or The Last of Cheri. The little book has the original French version following the translation, which rarely occurs in editions of prose rather than poetry. The published version has the French and English on facing pages.

The characters are supposed to have real feeling for the ones offstage, and only have sexual play with those on stage. I may be too much of a puritan to enjoy such froth, but the French prose is exquisite. For those who don''t read French, it is probably like looking at a Fragonard while listening to Rameau. A romp. It should make a wonderful study tool for students of French, who want to have some fun while they study. ( )
  almigwin | Jan 8, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Denon, Vivantprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gay, IvoAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pennings, ZsuzsóTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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La lettre tue, et l'esprit vivifie.
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J'aimais éperdument la comtesse de ... ; j'avais vingt ans, et j'étais ingénu ; elle me trompa, je me fâchai, elle me quitta.
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Point de lendemain (No Tomorrow) is the English translation of a French 18th century masterpiece, Point de Lendemain by Dominique Vivant Denon. Written in 1777 and re-edited in 1812, Point de Lendemain is a record of the initiation of a young man and a member of a secret society. Giovanna Summerfield's preface and notes will offer a new way of reading Point de Lendemain, marginalizing the triviality of sex and the love triangle, which has been thus far seen as a physical need rather than as an expression of supremacy and challenge of God. This tale of seduction is itself a seduction, with a plot that could be said to slowly unveil itself before arriving at last at an unexpected consummation. Summoned by Madame de T---- to her country house, the young hero of Denon's novella is taken on a tour of the grounds, only the beginning of a night that not only will be full of unanticipated delights but will give rise to unforeseen, perhaps unanswerable, questions. Lydia Davis's definitive translation of Denon's slim masterpiece is accompanied by the French text. Peter Brooks's illuminating introduction explores the mysteries of "No Tomorrow"'s original publication and the subtleties of Denon's ethics of pleasure.… (more)

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