Brautigan > An Unfortunate Woman

This node of the American Dust website (formerly Brautigan Bibliography and Archive) provides comprehensive information about Richard Brautigan's novel An Unfortunate Woman: A Journey. Published in 1994, in France, USA First Edition published 2000, this was Brautigan's tenth published novel and published after his death in 1984. Publication and background information is provided, along with reviews, many with full text. Use the menu tabs below to learn more.

          

Background

First published in France in 1994 (USA first edition published 2000), An Unfortunate Woman: A Journey was Richard Brautigan's tenth published novel. Written before his death in 1984, this novel was published post-humously. The theme was an exploration of death through the oblique ruminations on the suicide death of one female friend, and the death by cancer of another, Nikki Arai.

Dedication

Nikki Arai died of a heart attack
on July 18, 1982, in San Francisco
after struggling against cancer
until her heart just stopped
beating. She was thirty-eight.
I sure am going to miss her.

Writing and Publication Timeline

Written during the summer of 1982, this novel was published posthumously, first in France in 1994 as Cahier d'un Retour de Troie (Diary of a Return from Troy), then, in 2000, in the United States and the United Kingdom by Brautigan's daughter, Ianthe Brautigan.

Brautigan apparently gave a copy of the manuscript for this book to Marc Chénetier while in Paris in 1984. According to Chénetier, Brautigan "gave me no reason outside of the fact he trusted me, on the basis of what I had already written on him (he had read my Methuen book, out in 1983), and already translated. [He was] relieved someone was treating his work for its literary make-up merits rather than out of some period anecdote-based fan cult he had no use for. [H]e thought I would like and understand it (we talked a lot about this and his other books) and hoped that I could translate it for a French publisher when the opportunity arose, since he was doubtful it would find a publisher in the United States at that stage. But perhaps he didn't have the heart to try that, any longer, and thought it easier this way? I don't know."

Chénetier choose the French title Cahier d'un Retour de Troie [Return of the Woman of Troy], "on the basis of conversations with Richard who wished the French title to pick up on a thread that runs through the text and shows up in several places (the book's epigraph in particular, but of course, the last line of the book too). Euripides was much in our conversations then. He wanted the idea of "coming back from Troy" in there, somehow. [This title] was the best formulation I could find in French of the one Richard had in mind. It has the familiar ring and lilt of Aimé Césaire's most famous work while the dated historical/mythological reference has the classical/ironical note Richard wished for. And clearly the "return" part finds its justification in the structural disposition and orientation of the text."

As for why the book was not published until 1994, Chénetier said, "I am not a publisher; I don't make this kind of decision. Christian Bourgois could not consider actually publishing the translation until a long time after I had the book translated. There were others to do before that, and other editorial tasks to pursue, I suppose" (Interview with Marc Chénetier, September 2006).

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