Narcisse on a Tightrope

Narcisse on a Tightrope

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By Olivier Targowla

Translated by Paul Curtis Daw

ISBN: 9781628973242

Publication Date: 06/01/2021

For seventeen years, Narcisse Dièze, chronic sufferer of a mysterious condition called "cerebral rheumatism" has lived in the protective confines of a psychiatric hospital.

There he has been attended by a contingent of nurses, for whom he has obligingly fathered somewhere between thirty-five and one hundred seventy-one children. (No one knows the exact number.) But the doctors abruptly decide that he is cured and prod him to reenter the outside world. Narcisse is floored, yet he gradually summons the will to try. What follows is an account of this naïve and timid patient’s adventures in the realm of the so-called sane. An endearing misfit in the tradition of Walter Mitty and Forrest Gump, Narcisse is destined to totter precariously on the highwire of his existence. Will we see him fall?

A quirky fable that pokes holes in the accepted mental health verities and pleads for a touch of madness. With an introduction by Warren Motte.


"One can imagine that if Garp had described his world without Irving’s assistance, he would have done it with the same cautious curiosity and the same discreet elegance. An absolute must-read." —L’Événement du jeudi

"This is what gives the book all its charm---to denounce stupidity and brutality, Olivier Targowla deploys a delicate irony and confers life and speech on this tightrope-walking character. A bit of the marionette, a bit of the imp, who could plausibly have sprung from a story by Robert Walser or from Ivan Goncharov’s novel, Oblomov." —Art Press

"This fluid little narrative instills in the reader a sense of strangeness that gives it its value." —Le Monde

"Strange tale of rehabilitation, a tightrope-walking exercise, a pleasing yet painful return to life." —Libération

"Olivier Targowla had to keep his balance perfectly. His first novel is better than promising, it is deeply mischievous and nonetheless serious, well-constructed, well-written . . . Targowla has successfully brought off a bittersweet fable. He has created a character with a real existence, a slightly loopy fellow who in the end is not nearly as ill as a good many outwardly healthy people." —Dernières nouvelles d’Alsace

Biographical Information

Olivier Targowla is the author of six works of fiction, all published by Editions Maurice Nadeau. Narcisse on a Tightrope is his first novel.

Paul Curtis Daw practiced law before becoming a translator. In 2015, the University of Virginia Press published his translation of Evelyne Trouillot’s novel Memory at Bay. His translations of stories and other texts from France, Haiti, Belgium, Quebec, Reunion, and Swiss Romandy (forthcoming) appear in Words Without Borders, Subtropics, Asymptote Blog, Indiana Review, Cimarron Review, carte blanche, and K1N, among other publications, and in several annual editions of Best European Fiction (Dalkey Archive Press). He serves as an officer and director of the American Literary Translators Association.