The Only Son

By Stephane Audeguy; John Cullen (Translator)
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780151013296, 256pp.)

Publication Date: September 2008

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau mentions his older brother François only two times in his classic Confessions. In The Only Son, Stéphane Audeguy resurrects Rousseau's forgotten brother in a picaresque tale that brings to life the secret world of eighteenth-century Paris.

Instructed at an early age in the philosophy of libertinage by a decadent aristocrat and later apprenticed to a clock maker, François is ultimately disowned by his family and flees to Paris's underworld. There he finds work in a brothel that caters to politicians and clergy and begins his personal study of the varieties of sexual desire—to its most arcane proclivities. Audeguy uses the libertine's progress to explore the interplay between the individual and society, much in the tradition of Jean-Jacques, but with a very different emphasis. Bold, erotic, and historically fascinating, The Only Son is, in many ways, the anti-Confessions—François' own, decidedly different, portrait of human nature.

About the Author

STEPHANE AUDEGUY lives in Paris, where he teaches the history of cinema and arts.

Praise For The Only Son


"Audeguy's novel moves along smartly and is told with relish, an engaging wryness of manner and bold piacaresque inventiveness . . . an absorbing and intelligent entertainment."—The Times Literary Supplement (London)


"Beautiful, sensuous, cerebral, this novel is the work of a major talent."—The Seattle Times

"A subtle mixture of history and fiction, tragedy and comedy."—The Washington Post Book World

While many wonderful characters emerge in this novel, none is more ubiquitous and yet more ambiguous than Jean-Jacques himself, who acts as a silent partner to events of the French Revolution and the formation of the republic. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.

Stephan Audeguy has chosen an obscure, but wonderfully eccentroc protagonist for his second novel, The Only Son...the sensual decadence of the age is fully conveyed...It''s an exuberant reply to the younger Rousseau''s fabled Confessions.

The Only Son is couched in an elegant pastiche of 18th-Century prose, masterfully rendered into English by John Cullen

Audeguy''s inventive novel profiles the older, smarter brother of the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Roussea...Francois''s apologia is less a sour-grapes critique of his brother''s theories than a cynical deconstruction of the revolutionary ideals they presaged.

It''s quite an achievement, this picaresque adventure, which reads without any false notes of anachronism and in John Cullen''s translation harmonizes beautifully with the cadence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau''s style.

The novel''s fresh view of an oft-covered era is worth the price of admission.

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