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The Book of Monelle

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  928 ratings  ·  99 reviews
When Marcel Schwob published "The Book of Monelle" in French in 1894, it immediately became the unofficial bible of the French Symbolist movement, admired by such contemporaries as Stéphane Mallarmé, Alfred Jarry and André Gide. A carefully woven assemblage of legends, aphorisms, fairy tales and nihilistic philosophy, it remains a deeply enigmatic and haunting work more th ...more
Paperback, 136 pages
Published October 1st 2012 by Wakefield Press (first published 1894)
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Average rating 4.14  · 
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Vit Babenco
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“Don’t be surprised – she said – This is me and this isn’t me; you will find me once again and you will lose me once again; I will come to you one more time; for few people have seen me and no one has understood me; and you will forget me, and will know me again, and will forget.”
The Book of Monelle is among such great books as Ecclesiastes, The Song of Songs and The Book of the Dead
“Look: each moment is a cradle and a casket: may all life and all death seem strange to you…
Say not: I live today,
Nate D
Apr 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: the forgetting and forgotton, who know not where their next step may fall
Recommended to Nate D by: a seller of tiny lamps in the rain
Monelle found me in the plain where I was wandering and took me by the hand.

A paean to impermanence and flux, a dark embrace to an unstable universe jeweled with such splendors as can only lead astray, an instruction in the necessity of allowing oneself to forget oneself and follow these deceptions nonetheless.
Build your house alone, and alone, burn it to the ground.
Throw no debris behind you; may each put his ruins to use.

Written first to cheer and then to eulogize a consumptive young prostitut
Dec 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
I like a man child. A boy perched on the threshold where androgyny pours (purrs spellchecker tells me.) into the promise of newly fledged flesh-bulk. Oh yeah I do. I could see my fingers rippling his husk and furrowing into the contours of his sinew: freshly minted and cord-taut, tremor ridden, chisel hewn and get out of my way already I'm going for it..

Is this OK?

Its going to have to be. Don’t call 999, do not pass go, do not collect a ‘get out of jail free card’. If Maynard Keynes (he of Keyn
Nancy Oakes
If modern writers could do what Schwob has done with this book, the world of literature would be vastly different. Jeez -- there aren't enough stars in this rating system to really express how I feel about this book, and I feel so stupid just letting it linger on my translated fiction shelves. It is yet another one of those books that is felt rather than simply read. It is dark beyond dark, sad, tragic, yet as we discover at the very end, perhaps a bit hopeful. I've never read such a personal, g ...more
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wakefield-press
What an exquisite little gem of a book!
Chuck LoPresti
May 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Book of Monelle is an achingly beautiful cornerstone of symbolist writing. I have an obvious weakness for symbolist art and literature but would have no problem suggesting this to those less inclined to investigate such unfashionable expressions. Schwob is probably the greatest symbolist writer and his restraint, intelligence and clarity is on full display here. The strength of symbolist art, for me at least, lies in the ability of the writer to supplant normal reality with symbols that requ ...more
Dec 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like plucking a tasty tropical fruit, biting into it, relishing its sugary juice. And then, while you're still licking your lips, you realise it's poisonous. And you drop dead among the thorny blooms and fanged butterflies of your bittersweet delusions.

What you see is what you are.
Dec 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: from-the-french
I appreciated this intensely personal and weird book. Any intensely personal book will probably be weird. I appreciate that. But there was a lot here about little girls. Now . . . I like Alice in Wonderlands and Merricat Blackwoods and that movie the Florida Project, but, well, this was a lot of little girls for one book. I don't fault it for that but the experience of reading was a bit . . . cloying or precious or something. This is confusing because the reason I read this book is the story "Th ...more
Cristina Goberna
Jun 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I recently read without a break the trilling and arresting El Libro de Monelle by Marcel Schwob (translation to Spanish by Luna Miguel) The author creates a atmosphere of enchantment where children hide, dreaming of adventures and an improbable feeling of safety. A world of golden coins, warm corners, hunger, magical creatures and violence. A space were kids know all and adults seem irreversibly naive around abandoned houses, shivering flames and crystalline laughs. A book that offers a genuine ...more
Even though I wanted to read this book, I was prepared to hate it from the very first page.

Of course I loved it.

"Our error was to stop ourselves in life and, remaining immobile, to regard all things flow by us, instead of trying to stop life and make of ourselves an eternal resting-place among the floating ruins."
May 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book that changed everything...
Mar 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have to admit, this isn’t a book I would normally choose to read, but I am so glad I did. I came across a great review on a blog somewhere.

The author, Marcel Schwob, was inspired to write this via a relationship he had with a young woman who died from Tuberculosis. This brief relationship changed Schwob and his writing style, which up until this book he had regurgitated and reworked existing texts and tales (“All construction is made of debris”).

I wasn’t able to get through this book in one
Yari Lorenzo
Sep 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All good readers
This is my favorite book. I keep reading it once a year and it never stops amazing me. If you can ind it in English it is a definite must.
Oleksandr Fediienko
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
It seems to you that you're holding her in your hands but it's just memories of her. It seems she's dying but no, she's decomposing – into a dozen sides of her character. It seems that her name is Monelle but in fact she's a dreamer, a wild thing, a sorceress, a creation of a millennia-old imagination translated in fairy-tales and folklore stories. It seems that this is love and loss but this is Marcel Schwob's proto-surrealism.
The Book of Monelle is one of those written works that are impossibl
Stephen Miletus
Apr 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Schwob is best known in France for The Book of Monelle--although he is almost unknown in the English-speaking world. According to one source, during his life time when he was introduced as the author of this book, more than once he brusquely replied that he had written a good deal besides it.

This book has dominated the few accounts of his life. Most of these examine in great detail his relationship with Louise, the girl who provided his inspiration for Monelle, who was terminally ill when he met
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to S̶e̶a̶n̶ by: Emilie

"With us, nobody suffers and nobody dies; we say that people out there strive to know the sad truth that in fact does not exist. Those who seek the truth stray from us and abandon us.

We, however, have no faith in the truths of this world; for they lead to sadness.

And we wish to lead our children to joy.

Now grown-ups shall be able to come to us, and we shall teach them of ignorance and illusion.

We shall show them the little flowers of the fields in a way that they have never seen them before; fo
Jun 03, 2013 rated it liked it
And Monelle said again: I shall speak to you of destruction.

Behold the word: Destroy, destroy, destroy. Destroy within yourself; destroy what surrounds you. Make space for your soul and for all other souls.
     Destroy all good and all evil. Their ruins are the same.
     Destroy the old dwellings of man and the old dwellings of the soul; what is dead is a distorting mirror.
     Destroy, for all creation comes from destruction.
     And for higher benevolence you must annihilate lower benevolence.
May 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful book that reads like an incantation of a decadent symbolist muse and a heartrendingly personal memorial to a lost friend. The text is split into three parts - the first is a series of almost biblical exhortations (clearly inspired by Nietzsche), followed by what read like half-finished parables of 'lost' girls and a fairy-tale like recounting of the heroine Monelle's death. I'd read the last chapter - translator's note - first. It provides a little background on Schwob's life and the ...more
Mason Jones
May 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Such an interesting book. Being a work of French fin de siècle literature, it falls into one of my favorite domains, but it is unlike many others of the time. It reminds me most, perhaps, of Leonora Carrington's short pieces, with a melancholy dreaminess that gives its surreal imagery a sort of emotional weight. Written as Schwob's unusual love was dying of tuberculosis, she both stood in as the title character and also gave the other characters (known as Monelle's sisters, in a spiritual rather ...more
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantastic, favorite
This book is fully deserving to bear the title of Bible.

First section Monelle Preaches and her words are sacrament

The second section Monelle's sisters are the main focus of a series of beautiful and brief yet supremely graceful fairy tales. Fairy tales that relate the emotions of us all in the form of nihilistic? existentialist? certainly symbolist themes.

The Third and final section relates in breathtaking allegory Marcel Schwob watch helpless as the love of his life (a 25 yr old woman of the
Dec 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Hymn book for a midnight sermon held by sputtering candle light in an abandoned cabin on the sea shore during the storm of the century.
Charles  Beauregard
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
In the tradition of Borges and Doblin and similar to Brandão in style and intent and yet in its own way a book like no other. Supposedly a bible of the surrealists and justifiably so.
Jez Skeggs
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A wondrous little book that begins with a bold philosophical outlook; then the narrative turns beautifully fairy-tale, before ending with darkling recollections of regret and sorrow.
It's all about Monelle, and the author's (perhaps fantasized) memories of her character and mysterious existence.
Enchanting and haunting in equal measure.
Jun 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Quotable, but weird. Read on a plane where I was sure I wouldn't be able to run away from it. I liked the story parts better than the philosophical Symbolist stuff - the last few chapters escaped me.
in your absence i have become you and in becoming you i have become absent myself
Black Glove
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An enigmatic novella.
Part One offers Monelle's philosophy of life. The tone brought to mind Nietzsche's Zarathustra. There is stark wisdom here that demands to be re-read.
Part Two contains snapshots of how Monelle might have been away from the dark city streets. Some of these narratives read like fairy tales. The girl at the heart of each short story seems sad yet adventurous, desiring escape.
Part Three delves into the mind of the despairing author as he attempts to make sense of his beloved's d
For my current state of mind, this was a bit too weird. I also wonder if the e-book version I found wad complete - it sure wasn't over 200 pages! Confusing and abrupt, with lots of childish tales that weren't really to my liking. A big meh.
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
this was a strange, whimsical book, quite unlike anything i've ever read before; i'm intrigued to explore much more of symbolist writing! especially part i left me aching and is going to haunt me for long.
Billy Dagger
Oct 12, 2015 rated it did not like it
a better taxi driver in the woods
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful and haunting book filled with dark fairy tales
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Marcel Schwob (1867-1905) was one of the key symbolist writers, standing in French literature alongside such names as Stephane Mallarme, Octave Mirbeau, Andre Gide, Leon Bloy, Jules Renard, Remy de Gourmont, and Alfred Jarry. His best-known works are Double Heart (1891), The King In The Gold Mask (1892), and Imaginary Lives (1896).

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“Look: each moment is a cradle and a casket: may all life and all death seem strange to you.” 16 likes
“May your course not run from one end to the other; for such a course does not exist; but may every step you take mark a redressed projection.
With your left foot you shall wipe out the footprint of your right foot.”
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