Passing with cinematographic speed across the capitals of Europe, Nobel laureate André Gide's Lafcadio's Adventures is a brilliantly sly satire and one of the clearest articulations of his greatest theme: the unmotivated crime. When Lafcadio Wluiki, a street-smart nineteen-year-old in 1890s Paris, learns that he's heir to an ailing French nobleman's fortune, he's seized by wanderlust. Traveling through Rome in expensive new threads, he becomes entangled in a Church extortion scandal involving an imprisoned Pope, a skittish purveyor of graveyard statuary, an atheist-turned-believer on the edge of insolvency, and all manner of wastrels, swindlers, aristocrats, adventurers, and pickpockets. With characteristic irony, Gide contrives a hilarious detective farce whereby the wrong man is apprehended, while the charmingly perverse Lafcadio--one of the most original creations in all modern fiction--goes free.
Billed as Gide's most elaborate exploration of the "gratuitous act" or "unmotivated crime", that aspect of the work is only the nucleus around which spiral a varied cast of characters. Just as the theme of "Adaptation" percolates through the film of the same name, the theme of senseless action caroms between the players in this short novel set at the tipping point between staid 19th century European tradition and the thrill of life in the age of technology.
This book is constructed like a farce, and is there is indeed a lot going on in just over 200 pages here. But the twists can’t quite mask the fact that there is no core here, save a mocking of a religious bourgeoisie that hasn’t really aged well. There are a few smirks here, but in the end, when the story desperately tries to become something more real and profound, it shows to be mostly gestures. Mildly amusing.
A funny unique story.Good to have the old stories brought to the fore again.
I received a digital copy from the publishers via Netgalley in return for an honest unbiased review.
Despite my expectation that Gide must be a thoroughly anti-establishment writer, developments in this racy and sometimes humorous narrative place the author in company with Dan Quayle and other conservatives who’ve decried the evil effects of illegitimate births & child-rearing. Lafcadio’s “unmotivated crime” comes to pass as a result of his rootless lifestyle and devotion to fleeting amusements. The evil impulse fills an emptiness where attachment is lacking. His mother’s wanton ways in passing him from uncle to uncle clearly established the unfortunate pattern! And despite being drawn to pleasure, Lafcadio is also a bit of a Buddhist: he enters the void outside of social convention and even finds it possible to “quit a society as simply as all that, without stepping at the same moment into another…” A very interesting read!