Exemplary Departures by Gabrielle Wittkop, translated by Annette David / ISBN 9781939663139 / 168-page paperback with flaps from Wakefield Press
Exemplary Departures consists of five exquisitely wrought novellas depicting five "exemplary" deaths in various exotic locations around the globe: a gentleman spy disappears with his secrets into the Malaysian jungle; a young woman agonizes atop a ruined castle overlooking the Rhine; a writer succumbs to alcoholism in the streets of Baltimore; a salesman expires as a vagabond in the sewers of New York; and hermaphroditic twins are assassinated in a stagecoach.
Drawing from the remnants of real-life anecdotes--from Edgar Allan Poe's final days to the agonizing tale of Idilia Dubb--these stories are imagined descents into death's supreme indifference. A true modern inheritor of the legacy of the French Decadent writers, Wittkop spins these tales with her trademark macabre elegance and chilling humor, maneuvering in an uncertain space between dark Romanticism, Gothic Expressionism and Sadean cruelty. "Death is life's most important moment," Wittkop claimed; Exemplary Departures offers five particularly important moments for the English reader's delectation.
First published as a set of three novellas in 1995, this translation is of the 2012 edition of five novellas, which include the previously unpublished "Mr. T.'s Last Secret" and "Claude and Hippolyte."
Self-styled heir to the Marquis de Sade, Gabrielle Wittkop (1920–2002) was a French author of a remarkable series of novels and travelogues, all laced with sardonic humor and dark sexuality, with recurrent themes of death, decay, disease, and decrepitude.