Masters and Servants

Pierre Michon; Translated, Illustrated, and with a New Introduction by Wyatt Mason

View Inside Price: $15.00


October 22, 2013
192 pages, 5 x 7 3/4
5 b/w
ISBN: 9780300180695
PB-with Flaps


One of Pierre Michon’s most powerful works, this book imagines decisive moments in the lives of five artists of different times and places: Vincent van Gogh, Francisco Goya, Antoine Watteau, Claude Lorrain, and Lorentino, a little-remembered disciple of Piero della Francesca.


 


Michon focuses on particular moments when artist and model collide, whether that model is a person or a landscape, inner or outer. In the five separate tales he evokes the full passion of the artist’s struggle to capture the world in images even as the world resists capture. Each story is a small masterpiece that transcends national boundaries and earns its place among the essential works of world literature.


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 demonstrates the independence of voice that marks a true writer. . . . His supple prose, dappled with chiaroscuro effects, is used in straight forward chronicles. But his writing can at any time lift or lower into semi-hallucinatory effects that recall Arthur Rimbaud’s assaults on conventional perception.”—Roger Shattuck, The New York Review of Books
“Michon is new to me but with Masters and Servants has become a member of that family known as the authors I admire, I trust, I want to read.”
—Richard Howard



"From the silence of paintings Pierre Michon evokes marvels. A portrait becomes a person of such complex depth as to suggest the mentality of an era. A color becomes an idea. A painting becomes the painter, and words become painting. Most generally, in the flow of Michon's meditations and narratives, the visionary becomes actual, and the actual becomes visionary. These are critical moments to which such names as van Gogh or Goya are attached, names that suggest the poignancy and pathos of art amid the beauty and incoherence and destructive nightmare of life. Wyatt Mason’s translation is excellent in its energy and precision.”

—Leonard Michaels
“Michon is one of the best-kept secrets of modern French prose.”
—Publishers Weekly 

“Michon offers a brilliant tour de force of five pieces about art and artists: an often indescribably eloquent modern taking up where Vasari, say, might have left off."   
—Kirkus Reviews



“Reading 'The Life of Joseph Roulin' made tears well up at the end. A beautiful novella with an ancestry somewhere between Guy de Maupassant and Flaubert, and yet a wholly new kind of treatment. “

—Guy Davenport

“An incredibly special literary work in that it truly does bring art to life.”—Three Percent
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