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Description - Villa Des Roses by Willem Elsschot

The gilt-lettered advertisement outside Madame Brulot's pension in the shabby rue d'Armaille promises a 'first-class family boarding house' and 'modern conveniences'. One thing is certain: few emerge from their stay at the Villa des Roses unscathed. The seduction of the new maid Louise, the tragic suicide of Monsieur Brizard, the champagne birthday party for Madame Dumoulin, the antics of Chico the monkey - these are just some of the incidents and characters that cause a sensation in the bittersweet and blackly comic world of the Villa des Roses.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9781862076167
ISBN-10: 1862076162
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 8mm)
Pages: 162
Imprint: Granta Books
Publisher: Granta Books
Publish Date: 1-Jul-2003
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions - Villa Des Roses by Willem Elsschot

Book Reviews - Villa Des Roses by Willem Elsschot

UK Kirkus Review » Villa des Roses, Willem Elsschot's first novel, was originally published in 1913 to great acclaim. Elsschot went on to write several more books which established his reputation as an acute observer of the social milieu, concise in style and biting in his satirical analyses. This is an engrossing dark comedy, set in the suffocating atmosphere of a second-rate Parisian boarding house, where the eccentric staff and lodgers gradually reveal their true colours over the course of several months. The book traces the dying days of the villa before it is due to be demolished, and is a cruel expose of greed and emotional cruelty. The action takes place mostly within the confines of the Villa des Roses, where there is no electricity (ostensibly because it is too dangerous) and no baths (for fear of drowning). But it is for reasons of economy that the miserly landlord and his wife, the grotesque Madame and Monsieur Brulot, deprive their guests of these most basic creature comforts. Money is the driving force behind the business; their greatest pleasure is to con their guests out of a few extra francs, even introducing a sliding scale of fees depending on wealth and social standing. On the other hand, their greatest fear is to be conned themselves. The geriatric Madame Gendron causes outrage when she manages to secrete several oranges in her handbag during a meal, and she wreaks a shocking vengeance on Madame Brulot. It is the occasional flashes of true blackness which enliven this book, which is almost like a warped vision of A Room with a View. Here, however, instead of a table full of beautiful young women, dashing young men and wise literary figures holding dazzling and witty conversations, we have Elsschot's cast of oddballs, bizarre both in looks and personality. As well as the kleptomaniac Madame Gendron, he gives us the suicidal Monsieur Brizard, the physically repellent Jeanne de Kerros and the lascivious German Richard Grunewald. It is Grunewald's casual affair with Louise, one of the maids, which forms the main plot of this slender book, an affair which can only have one possible, wretched outcome. Paul Vincent's translation is fluent and eminently readable, ideally suited to Esscholt's terse observations. 90 years on, Villa des Roses is as absorbing a read as it was back in 1913. (Kirkus UK)


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Author Biography - Willem Elsschot

Willem Elsschot (1882 - 1960) was the pseudonym of Alfons de Ridder, head of a successful advertising agency who, unbeknownst to his family, was a hugely successful novelist in his spare time. Cheese, his breakthrough novel, was first published in Dutch in 1933 and is also published by Granta. Paul Vincent taught Dutch language and literature for many years at London University before becoming a full-time translator in 1989. He has translated various Dutch prose writers, including Harry Mulisch, Margriet de Moor, J. Bernlef and H. M. van den Brink.

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