The Origin of the World


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Pierre Michon; Translated and with a New Introduction by Wyatt Mason; With an Afterword by Roger Shattuck

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This spare, unforgettable novel is Pierre Michon’s luminous exploration of the mysteries of desire. A young teacher takes his first job in a sleepy French town. Lost in a succession of rainy days and sleepless nights, he falls under the spell of a town resident, a woman of seductive beauty and singular charm.


Yvonne. Yvonne. “Everything about her screamed desire…setting something in motion while settling a fingertip to the counter, turning her head slightly, gold earrings brushing her cheek while she watched you or watched nothing at all; this desire was open, like a wound; and she knew it, wore it with valor, with passion.” Michon probes the destructive powers of passion and the consuming need for love in this heartbreaking novel.

Pierre Michon is an author of high acclaim in France and Europe. He was winner of the Prix France Culture in 1984 for his first book, Small Lives, and of the 1996 Prix de la Ville de Paris for his body of work. He lives in France. Wyatt Mason, a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a contributing editor at Harper's, has translated writing by Pierre Michon, Eric Chevillard, Michel de Montaigne, and Arthur Rimbaud. He teaches at Bard College.
“Michon’s The Origin of the World is an astonishingly rich, mythic new direction in modern French narrative.”
 —Guy Davenport

“A slender book in length, but not in style and language.... Michon's short fable obliges us to recognize, within and beyond sexual fantasy, strains of cruelty directed toward beauty.” 
—Roger Shattuck, Harper's

"Lust is a common theme in literature, but rarely has it been expressed as poetically and profoundly as it is in prize-winning French author Pierre Michon's sliver of a novel, The Origin of the World."
—Regan McMahon, San Francisco Chronicle 

"While in part an ode to the obsessive absorption unrequited love can impose on one’s psyche, The Origin of the World more importantly stands as a meditation on love, life, sex, and death, and the hidden violence that lies in wait at the intersections of each. With poetic concision, Pierre Michon has created a story that is simultaneously a fabulistic, archetypal, and concrete expression of physical and emotional survival, steeped in need, the imaginary, and blood’s life force."
—Tom Bowden, The Education Digest

“The Origin of the World is a romance that recreates in its rushing, unchecked prose the swirling delirium of love and longing.”
 —Philip Herter, St. Petersburg Times   
“A haunting, imagistic book, somehow both lush and spare.”—Martin Riker, Wall Street Journal
ISBN: 9780300180701
Publication Date: October 22, 2013
112 pages, 5 x 7 3/4
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