The Lecture

Lydie Salvayre

translated from the French by Linda Coverdale
Dalkey Archive Press 2005
A book review by Danny Yee © 2009
Speaking to a local community in the small southern French town of Cintegabelle, the lecturer takes as his topic the art of conversation. He covers the advantages of conversation, the conditions necessary for its "blossoming", and some examples of different kinds of conversations.

Attempting a logical exposition, he deploys aphorism and anecdote alongside axiom and argument, but is continually distracted; he is in turn — and sometimes simultaneously — fatuous, bombastic, sarcastic, incisive, banal, petty, and profound.

"Since no administration has determined the precise number of persons capable of fulfilling said parameters, we have compensated for this serious oversight by tallying up those inhabitants of Cintegabelle who are fit for conversation.
After eliminating chatterboxes, patterboxes, loudmouths, soliloquists, and other cacophonists, we have established that only forty-eight people are suited to the art of conversation: forty-two of them are reasonably adept, five are talented, one is a genius, and guess who that is."

The self-centred lecturer can't help but insert himself and details of his own life into his monologue, revealing details of his relationship with his recently deceased, "whale-like" wife. And he faces tangential interruptions from the audience.

The Lecture is a comic and linguistic extravaganza. There is no plot as such, but sheer inventiveness and ironic humour provide more than enough entertainment for a hundred pages.

January 2009

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- Lydie Salvayre - The Company of Ghosts
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%T The Lecture
%A Salvayre, Lydie
%M French
%F Coverdale, Linda
%I Dalkey Archive Press
%D 2005 [1999]
%O paperback
%G ISBN 1564783510
%P 135pp