The Only Son
In his new novel, Stéphane Audeguy speculates on Jean-Jacques Rousseau's little-mentioned older brother, and in doing so creates a palatable mirror image of history.
In The Only Son (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Stéphane Audeguy (The Theory of Clouds) fabricates an autobiography of the elder Rousseau, who adopted the life of a libertine and was imprisoned in the Bastillethe Marquis de Sade was a fellow prisonerfor 27 years for making sex toys. He is liberated on that fateful day, July 14, 1789, which allows him a ringside seat to observe and critique the French Revolution in all its glory and dark excesses.
The story commences with the 90-year-old François’s attendance at his sibling’s reburial in 1794. Audeguy’s picaresque account of 18th-century French life is vivid, richly colored, and enhanced with dollops of humor. In one scene, François is involved in packaging rubble and miscellany from the demolished Bastille into patriotic souvenirsscrap metal, papers, and cell doorsall very modern and of course the antithesis of his revered and anointed brother’s values and worldview. As a palatable mirror image of history, The Only Son is smart, great fun.