But even today, the controversial politics of I Burn Paris could make readers uncomfortable. Banned by the French government “on the grounds that ‘it exuded blind and stupid hatred for Western European culture’” Jasieński’s novel erects a dozen political city-states within the walls of Paris, then mercilessly peels away layers of principle and morality until all that’s left is a pile of rotting corpses. And from these ashes, the ideal socialist commune is born.
Even the title is shrouded in controversy. And ambiguity. Did Jasieński, as the translator suggests, really misunderstand Paul Morand’s usage of the idiomatic expression “I Burn Moscow” and was his novel his incendiary revenge? Or could he too be referencing speedy travels through capital cities? Even so. This second interpretation seems no less problematic when considering the speedy traveler is the bubonic plague—the ultimate non-respecter of persons—infecting the CEO and the factory worker with equal enthusiasm.