Audeguy, Stéphane 1965–
Audeguy, Stéphane 1965–
Born 1965, in Tours, France. Education: Attended University of Paris.
Educator, film critic, historian, and author. University of Virginia, Charlottesville, assistant professor, 1986-87; instructor of literature history and cinema at a suburban high school in Paris, France, 1999—.
Prix Maurice Genevoix, French Academy, for La Théorie des nuages; Le Prix des Deux Magots; Marie-Claire Blais prize, Association Quebec-France.
La Théorie des nuages (novel), Gallimard (Paris, France), 2005, translated by Timothy Bent as The Theory of Clouds, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2007.
Fils unique (novel), Gallimard (Paris, France), 2006, translated by John Cullen as The Only Son, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2008.
Des Nouvelles de la Fontaine, Gallimard (Paris, France), 2007.
Writer and film critic Stéphane Audeguy is the author of critically acclaimed works in his native France. His 2005 novel La Théorie des nuages translated two years later as The Theory of Clouds, won the prestigious Prix Maurice Genevoix and announced the arrival of a new and vital voice in French fiction. This title was the first in a proposed trilogy of novels that are intended to present "a novelistic meditation upon the relationship between man, nature, technology, and history," according to a contributor to the Alliance Française USA Web site. The second in the planned trilogy, Fils unique, was published in English in 2008 as The Only Son.
Audeguy's debut novel, The Theory of Clouds, takes clouds as its central metaphor and conceit. The main protagonist, Japanese courtier Akira Kumo, is obsessed with them and has created a famed meteorological collection. He hires young Parisian librarian Virginie Latour to catalogue this vast collection and also to find for him the missing prize, the so-called Abercrombie Protocol. Audeguy weaves a tale of the present-day featuring Kumo, who turns out to be a Hiroshima survivor whose love of clouds was inspired by the mushroom cloud that obliterated his city, and also featuring numerous real and fictional historical personages. Among the real characters is the Quaker apothecary and hobby scientist Luke Howard, who, in the early nineteenth century, devised the various names for clouds, such as cumulus, stratus, and nimbus. Fictional characters include an artist named Carmichael, who is driven mad by his desire to paint the perfect cloud, and most notably Richard Abercrombie, a Scottish explorer who sets out in the late nineteenth century to photograph all the varieties of clouds in the world. His mission is curtailed, however, by a tragic event in a Borneo forest; thereafter he alters his project, turning his cloud catalogue into a compendium of female genitalia. It is this catalogue, dubbed the Abercrombie Protocol, that Kumo dispatches Virginie to the United States to find. The young woman is ultimately successful, seducing Abercrombie's grandson in the process. However, this prize does not have the expected effect on Kumo.
Reviewers responded warmly to the U.S. edition of The Theory of Clouds. A Kirkus Reviews critic noted: "The shadow of W.B. Sebald looms like cumulonimbus over this novel," further terming the work "unconventional and memorable." Similarly, Chauncey Mabe, writing in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, called The Theory of Clouds a "novel of great ambition," and "as intricately plotted as any thriller, with gems skillfully embedded throughout." Writing in Booklist, Donna Seaman felt that "Audeguy's witty, erotic, and expansive novel subtly contrasts humankind's love for nature and pursuit of scientific knowledge with our thoughtless pillaging of the living world and tragic habit of war," while a Publishers Weekly reviewer found it "beautifully written and imaginatively structured." Further praise came from Library Journal contributor Victor Or, who wrote: "The unusual blend of science and concupiscence stimulates consideration of the need to strike a fine balance between mind and flesh." Similarly, Electica reviewer Colleen Mondor thought this first novel was "elegantly written," and "a quiet book that contains a powerful emotional presence."
Audeguy's second novel, The Only Son, also deals with historical matters. Set during the French Revolution, it is a fictional biography of the older brother of philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a sibling mentioned only twice in Rousseau's Confessions. The novel has been described as a picaresque tale of late-eighteenth-century Paris. Speaking with a contributor in the French Book News, Audeguy remarked that this second book "is not an historical novel, it's a genealogical one. I wanted to bring out aspects of the revolutionary period which aren't necessarily well known, but which resonate strangely in our present moment."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August 1, 2007, Donna Seaman, review of The Theory of Clouds, p. 39.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2007, review of The Theory of Clouds.
Library Journal, August 1, 2007, Victor Or, review of The Theory of Clouds, p. 62.
Publishers Weekly, July 23, 2007, review of The Theory of Clouds, p. 44.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL), September 30, 2007, Chauncey Mabe, review of The Theory of Clouds.
Times Literary Supplement, November 17, 2006, "Jean-Jacques, Milk-Sop," p. 22.
Washington Post Book World, October 7, 2007, "Clouds from Both Sides Now: A Strange French Novel about the Allure of Shapes in the Sky," p. 7.
Alliance Française USA Web site,http://www.alliance-us.org/ (April 12, 2008), author profile.
Electica,http://www.eclectica.org/ (April 12, 2008), Colleen Mondor, review of The Theory of Clouds.
French Book News,http://www.frenchbooknews.com/ (April 12, 2008), "Interview with Stéphane Audeguy."
Into My Own,http://www.ohdave.net/ (January 20, 2008), review of The Theory of Clouds.
PopMatters,http://www.popmatters.com/ (October 10, 2007), Chauncey Mabe, review of The Theory of Clouds.