Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Dead All Have The Same Skin by Boris Vian

Reprinted copy of The Dead All Have The Same Skin by Boris Vian
Boris Vian was a really odd guy in that a lot of his books were about part-black people and Americans, yet he was from Paris and never visited America. He was also completely white. They all take place in cities he never visited, and were about things he had never really experienced; but for this reason, his books are that much more interesting to read. Originally published in France in 1947, Vian claimed to have translated this book and several others from an American author called Vernon Sullivan—more than likely to distance himself from the lewdness, extreme sexuality, and racism that star in this book and most of his others. It soon came out that Vian himself had actually written them, both to popular acclaim and horror. They were successful in France and in the US for their bluntness, "forward-thinking," and ingenuity. The Dead All Have The Same Skin is about a quarter-black man who outwardly appears fully white to his family and co-workers, but whose world is overturned when his fully-black brother appears to extort him. Part noir and racial commentary, the story takes place in an awesomely imagined New York and Brooklyn in the late 1940's, features murder, fighting, drinking, police chases, profanity, and no fewer than 20 sexual exchanges in a novel that's just barely a hundred pages. This book—if you can believe it—is the most straightforward and least ridiculous of Vian's controversial work, although I highly recommend all of it. TamTam books reprinted this novel in 2007 and have since republished most of Vian's works.

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