We'll be publishing a review of The Salt Smugglers by 19th-century Frenchman Gérard de Nerval in the winter issue of The Quarterly Conversation. The book looks extremely interesting, and I'm planning on reading it as soon as I've taken care of a couple others. It was originally written as a series of feuilleton, and Archipelago has published this book in two-column, newspaper format.
Nerval was an immensely interesting writer, winning adherents such as Proust, Breton, and Umberto Eco (the latter of which called his novel Sylvie a masterpiece). I've seen him placed in the company of Laurence Sterne and described as a pre-postmodern author.
You can read an excerpt from The Salt Smugglers at Archipealgo's website here.
The Brooklyn Rail also has reviewed the book on this page. Here's a quote:
Straightforward fiction was unthinkable to 19th century French writer Gérard de Nerval. His work The Salt Smugglers occupies an ambiguous space between fiction and non-fiction, rendered through historical account, historical novel, satire, and gonzo journalism. The book is a response to the Riancey amendment, which was, as translator Richard Sieburth explains, “a stamp tax on any newspaper featuring a serial novel in its pages […] to safeguard the morality of the press.” The Salt Smugglers is subtitled “History of the Abbé de Bucquoy,” and de Nerval tells us the book is going to be about the Abbé. This character is missing from most of the novel, however, and instead we get: a romance involving Bucquoy’s aunt; the doomed fate of one of de Nerval’s own plays; his experience looking for old books in second hand stores, libraries, and auctions; and finally, the story of the Abbé’s prison break.