Among other bits and pieces we are presented with: an apparently autobiographical account of research for a work on the Abbé de Bucquoy, including an extended bibliographic quest for a book seen in passing in Frankfurt; a story found in police records from the 18th century; the romantic tale of the Abbé's great aunt and her elopement and subsequent adventures; elements of a travel guide to the Senlis area to the north of Paris; and accounts of the Abbé's escapes from various prisons, including the Bastille. It's not clear how much, if any, of this is factual, but that is, of course, the intent.
The Salt Smugglers is rambling and episodic — "an ephemeral journalistic performance addressed to the political topicalities of the ailing Second Republic" — but still an appealing amusement. Brief endnotes explain references that might be unclear to the modern reader and a nice twelve page postscript by translator Richard Sieburth explains the broader biographical and historical context, helping to make Nerval's work a window onto the political and literary culture of mid-nineteenth century France, for those that want more than entertainment.
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