King Cophetua

Julien Gracq

It is All Saints’ Day, 1917. Our narrator, a former soldier, recalls the events surrounding his arrival at the home of Jacques Nueil, an aviator and avant-garde composer. The Great War is leading up to images of the Russian Revolution, and from Nueil’s villa the narrator hears the sounds of bombs dropping in the distance. This carefully paced, mysteriously atmospheric novel is inspired by vivid memory and by two images, Goya’s engraving entitled La Mala Noche and Burne-Jones’s painting King Cophetua and the Beggar Girl.

Adapted for the film, Rendez-vous a Bray, 1971, directed by Andre Delvaux and starring Anna Karina.

  • “Mr. Gracq is one of the more stimulating and original imaginations in contemporary French literature.” —The New York Times Book Review

  • “A mesmerizing novella with a top-notch translation.” —San Francisco Chronicle

  • “This slender but beautifully written work takes us into a phantasmagoric world otherwise known as the war-torn French countryside circa 1917....King Cophetua, with its theme of anxiety created by a distant, media-driven war, proves an apt metaphor for our time.” —East Bay Express