HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Death of Napoleon by Simon Leys
Loading...

The Death of Napoleon (1986)

by Simon Leys

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2041190,475 (3.84)14
""Ladies and gentlemen, alas! The Emperor is dead." The news from St. Helena goes out across Europe, but in fact Napoleon has not died. By means of an ingenious escape, he has returned to the Continent, leaving an impersonator on St. Helena, and it is this double who has unexpectedly and very problematically passed away. Traveling incognito, the emperor experiences a series of bizarre adventures that bring him face-to-face with the myth of Napoleon as it is disconcertingly played out in everyday life. After a visit to Waterloo and a near arrest at the French border, he eventually arrives in Paris, where he falls in with some veteran Bonapartists and visits an asylum where most of the inmates are laboring under the mistaken impression that they are he. Will Napoleon ever recapture his true identity? Who, in the end, is he, now that "the Emperor is dead"? Simon Leys's truculent, delightful fable poses these and other questions in a rare work of fiction that is continually surprising and effervescent"--… (more)

None.

None
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 14 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)

“For the first time, he began to see himself as he really was, naked and defenseless at the center of a universal debacle, buffeted this way and that by events, threatened on every side by an all-pervasive decay, sinking slowly into the quicksands of failed resolutions, and finally disappearing into the ultimate morass against which no honor could prevail.”
― Simon Leys, The Death of Napoleon

Such lyrical, precise language, a cross between extended prose poem and novelistic meditation on the nature of identity, glory and history, both whimsically light and philosophically deep. Such graceful fiction from scholar/essayist/sinologist/quirky renaissance man Simon Leys (1935-2014).

"What a pleasure to read a real writer. The Death of Napoleon is utterly satisfying sentence by sentence and scene by scene, but it is also compulsively readable." These are the words of renowned literary critic Gabriel Josipovici, words with which I wholeheartedly agree. And to underscore my agreement, I’ll serve up a few slices of Leys poetic, that is, three quotes from scenes in Chapter One that chronicle Napoleon’s voyage on board a ship carrying the world-famous emperor from St. Helena back to his beloved France. And, yes, of course, this is imaginative alternate history.

A snippet of the author’s description of the ship’s cook: “He was tall, but a good half century spend over stoves in low-ceilinged galleys had broken him up into several angular segments, like a half-folded pocket rule. Without really being fat, his body swelled out arbitrarily in places, giving him the shape of a semi-deflated balloon. His face was split by a huge gaping mouth; in this grotto, as black and dirty as the maw of his stove, there emerged one or two teeth, like slimy rocks protruding at low tide. The ruined state of his teeth made his speech, already bizarre, all the harder to understand, endowing his rare utterances with a kind of oracular force – as befits a black cook on a sailing ship who, to be true to type, must naturally have a smattering of occult sciences.” Wow! I mean, Super-Wow! -- exquisite visual images; expressive vivid metaphors.

“Every evening, crushed by the fatigue of the day’s work, Napoleon would escape for a moment from the stuffy atmosphere of the forecastle and lean against the bulwark in the bows to watch the first stars come out. The softness of the tropical azure giving way slowly to the velvet of night, and the glittering of the lonely stars which seem so close to us when they begin to shine in the dusk, left him perfectly cold.” If you have never had an opportunity to stand on the deck of a ship at sea and watch tropical azure give way slowly to the velvet of night, here is your opportunity to not only experience via your imagination but to join Napoleon in doing so.

Napoleon assumes the identity of a cabin boy by the name of Eugène in order to escape from St. Helena. At one point we read of Napoleon’s self-reflection: “During this time in limbo, and until the day when Napoleon’s sun would rise again, he had to survive by relying upon wretched Eugène's purely physical existence. Only the slenderest thread was leading him back toward the hypothetical dawn of his future. So far, at every stage of his journey, a new, unknown messenger had emerged from the shadows to show him the route to follow.” Again, on one level Simon Leys’ slim novel is a meditation on the nature of time and identity. And what an identity! After all, he is Napoleon.

Thank you, New York Review Books (NYRB) for reprinting this slim classic. And thanks to Patricia Clancy for joining Mr. Leys in translating from the French into English. 130 pages of large font – this novella can be read in three hours. Treat yourself to a day of literary ecstasy. I have four times over and counting, but then again, when it comes to ecstasy I admit that I have never observed moderation.


( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
This was a fun, novella based on the mythical premise that Napoleon was able to escape his imprisonment at St. Helena. The narrative moves swiftly snd entertainingly.
The story is that an exact double of Napoleon has takenhis place in St. Helena, with the help of some obscure people, many apparently, who are interested in restoring Napoleon and France to its esarlier glory.
Napoleon is taken disguised on a ship and a the ports of call there is a person who expects him, and has instructions for the next stage. None of the people know each other, so there is maximum secrecy. All is going well until he is to arrive at Bourdeaux, but bad weather forces the captain to take the ship to Antwerp. This is where all the excitement begins. He has lost contact with the people who are supposed to return him to the throne, but doesn't know them or how to reach them.
He manages to return to Paris and finds lodging with a widow whose husband had fought under Napoleon. There is a group of former soldiers friends of the widow who come visit, one or two actually reside there. Napoleon, under his assumed name, befriends them. The lady gets shipments of cantalopes that tries to sell with thehelp of her children; but theydon't make progress and the cantalopes rot, some of them. Napoleon organizes the children and the soldiers and develops a plan to sell the cantalopes, using his knowledge of military tactics. They are successful.
All is well until he discloses to one of the soldiers, who is a doctor, that he is Napoleon. The doctor takes him at night to a building outside the city, surrounded by a wall, where he sees a lot of people, who turns out were claiming they were Napoleon and this place is in fact a looney house.
He runs away and all is well until he hints to the widow, by this time he is sharing the bed with him, that he is Napoleon. She suspects thst he is nut and brings a doctor without telling Napoleon. He realizes that this doctor is the onehe'd seen at the sanatorium, so he decides that it'sbest to shut up.
Later on he dies peacefully, but does not regain his former position and nobody lnows he was the real Napoleon. ( )
  xieouyang | Apr 9, 2017 |

“For the first time, he began to see himself as he really was, naked and defenseless at the center of a universal debacle, buffeted this way and that by events, threatened on every side by an all-pervasive decay, sinking slowly into the quicksands of failed resolutions, and finally disappearing into the ultimate morass against which no honor could prevail.”
― Simon Leys, The Death of Napoleon

Such lyrical, precise language, a cross between extended prose poem and novelistic meditation on the nature of identity, glory and history, both whimsically light and philosophically deep. Such graceful fiction from scholar/essayist/sinologist/quirky renaissance man Simon Leys (1935-2014).

"What a pleasure to read a real writer. The Death of Napoleon is utterly satisfying sentence by sentence and scene by scene, but it is also compulsively readable." These are the words of renowned literary critic Gabriel Josipovici, words with which I wholeheartedly agree. And to underscore my agreement, I’ll serve up a few slices of Leys poetic, that is, three quotes from scenes in Chapter One that chronicle Napoleon’s voyage on board a ship carrying the world-famous emperor from St. Helena back to his beloved France. And, yes, of course, this is imaginative alternate history.

A snippet of the author’s description of the ship’s cook: “He was tall, but a good half century spend over stoves in low-ceilinged galleys had broken him up into several angular segments, like a half-folded pocket rule. Without really being fat, his body swelled out arbitrarily in places, giving him the shape of a semi-deflated balloon. His face was split by a huge gaping mouth; in this grotto, as black and dirty as the maw of his stove, there emerged one or two teeth, like slimy rocks protruding at low tide. The ruined state of his teeth made his speech, already bizarre, all the harder to understand, endowing his rare utterances with a kind of oracular force – as befits a black cook on a sailing ship who, to be true to type, must naturally have a smattering of occult sciences.” Wow! I mean, Super-Wow! -- exquisite visual images; expressive vivid metaphors.

“Every evening, crushed by the fatigue of the day’s work, Napoleon would escape for a moment from the stuffy atmosphere of the forecastle and lean against the bulwark in the bows to watch the first stars come out. The softness of the tropical azure giving way slowly to the velvet of night, and the glittering of the lonely stars which seem so close to us when they begin to shine in the dusk, left him perfectly cold.” If you have never had an opportunity to stand on the deck of a ship at sea and watch tropical azure give way slowly to the velvet of night, here is your opportunity to not only experience via your imagination but to join Napoleon in doing so.

Napoleon assumes the identity of a cabin boy by the name of Eugène in order to escape from St. Helena. At one point we read of Napoleon’s self-reflection: “During this time in limbo, and until the day when Napoleon’s sun would rise again, he had to survive by relying upon wretched Eugène's purely physical existence. Only the slenderest thread was leading him back toward the hypothetical dawn of his future. So far, at every stage of his journey, a new, unknown messenger had emerged from the shadows to show him the route to follow.” Again, on one level Simon Leys’ slim novel is a meditation on the nature of time and identity. And what an identity! After all, he is Napoleon.

Thank you, New York Review Books (NYRB) for reprinting this slim classic. And thanks to Patricia Clancy for joining Mr. Leys in translating from the French into English. 130 pages of large font – this novella can be read in three hours. Treat yourself to a day of literary ecstasy. I have four times over and counting, but then again, when it comes to ecstasy I admit that I have never observed moderation.


( )
  GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
A delightful piece of alternative history as Napoleon escapes from exile in plan carefully constructed by his loyalists. The plan goes awry and he must make his way alone. Once in Paris, he finds that he has changed so much that he is unrecognizable and he must improvise and try to accept that his days of glory are past. ( )
  seeword | Jan 27, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Leys, SimonAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Clancy, PatriciaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
Quotations
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English

None

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Quick Links

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (3.84)
0.5
1
1.5
2 2
2.5
3 10
3.5 6
4 12
4.5 1
5 10

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

» Publisher information page

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 141,626,853 books! | Top bar: Always visible