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The Little Girl and the Cigarette

Translated by Charlotte Mandell

In the over-legislated world of this outrageous black comedy, a death-row inmate becomes a darling of the media—and the tobacco conglomerates—after he demands his right to a final cigarette … in a smoke-free prison. Meanwhile, a little girl accuses a petty municipal bureaucrat of sexual perversion when she catches him sneaking a cigarette. Incredulously, he realizes that in this world where children are not just kings, but tyrants, a cigarette could lead him to the electric chair. At the cutting edge of European fiction, controversial young author Benoit Duteurtre creates a world wildly askew, yet disconcertingly close to our own, in this daring, antic satire.

An anarchic and controversial figure in France, BENOIT DUTEURTRE became a writer after Samuel Beckett praised his early work. Duteurtre went on to write 10 novels and win the coveted Prix Medici, and has been acclaimed by Milan Kundera and media philosopher Guy Dubord alike. The great-grandson of French President René Coty, Duteurtre is also the host of his own radio show, “Astonish Me, Benoit.” His work has been translated into thirteen languages. This is his first book to be translated into English.

“A cultural bomb thrower.” International Herald Tribune

“The novel goes down swinging—it gets its excited jabs in at everything from the nanny state to the way that children rule the adult world like tiny tyrants.” —Paul Constant, The Stranger

“A fascinating … fable of the terrifying power of public opinion.” Bookslut

“Duteurtre suggests that our obsession with children is pure narcissism—we outlaw our freedoms not because we love children but because we want to bethem. And when we rebel, we do it because we long for the reassurance that having boundaries gives. It is maddening to watch this bureaucrat refuse to acknowledge his own childish behavior—like puffing secretly upstairs in a relative’s nonsmoking home—as he rails against everyone else. On one hand, you empathize with his fight for personal liberties. On the other, you wish he’d just grow up and behave. Ultimately, he comes off as whiny, self-absorbed and unsympathetic. But this is precisely the point: We can see him no other way.” —Karrie Higgins, The Los Angeles Times

“As an unfiltered hit of misanthropy, the book goes down strong and bitter, leaving behind a craving for more.” —David Ng, The Village Voice

“Both funny and unsettling.” Chicago Reader

“A joy to read, as much as it is alarming.” Le Monde