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Ivory Pearl by Jean-Patrick Manchette

Set in Cuba’s Sierra Maestra in the 1950s, in the days leading up to the Revolution–Manchette’s unfinished masterpiece with a fearless female protagonist.

Out of the wreckage of World War II swaggers Ivory Pearl, so named (rhymes with girl) by some British soldiers who made her their mascot, a mere kid, orphaned, survivor of God knows what, but fluent in French, English, smoking, and drinking. In Berlin, Ivy meets Samuel Farakhan, a rich closeted intelligence officer. Farakhan proposes to adopt her and help her to become the photographer she wants to be; his relationship to her will provide a certain cover for him. And she is an asset. The deal is struck…

1956: Ivy has seen every conflict the postwar world has on offer, from Vietnam to East Berlin, and has published her photographs in slick periodicals, but she is sick to death of death and bored with life and love. It’s time for a break. Ivy heads to Cuba, the Sierra Maestra.

History, however, doesn’t take vacations.

Ivory Pearl was Jean-Patrick Manchette’s last book, representing a new turn in his writing. It was to be the first of a series of ambitious historical thrillers about the “wrong times” we live in. Though left unfinished when Manchette died, the book, whose full plot has been filled in here from the author’s notes, is a masterpiece of bold suspense and black comedy: chilling, caustic, and perfectly choreographed.

Jean-Patrick Manchette (1942–1995) was a genre-redefining French crime novelist, screenwriter, critic, and translator. Born in Marseille to a family of relatively modest means, Manchette grew up in a southwestern suburb of Paris, where he wrote from an early age. While a student of English literature at the Sorbonne, he contributed articles to the newspaper La Voie communiste and became active in the national students’ union.
In 1961 he married, and with his wife Mélissa began translating American crime fiction—he would go on to translate the works of such writers as Donald Westlake, Ross Thomas, and Margaret Millar, often for Gallimard’s Série noire.  Throughout the 1960s Manchette supported himself with various jobs writing television scripts, screenplays, young-adult books, and film novelizations. In 1971 he published his first novel, a collaboration with Jean-Pierre Bastid, and embarked on his literary career in earnest, producing ten subsequent works over the course of the next two decades and establishing a new genre of French novel, the néo-polar (distinguished from traditional detective novel, or polar, by its political engagement and social radicalism). During the 1980s, Manchette published celebrated translations of Alan Moore’s Watchmen graphic novels for a bande-dessinée publishing house co-founded by his son, Doug Headline. In addition to Fatale (also available as an NYRB Classic), Manchette’s novels Three to Kill and The Prone Gunman, as well as Jacques Tardi’s graphic-novel adaptations of them (titled West Coast Blues and Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot, respectively), are available in English.

Ivory Pearl
by Jean-Patrick Manchette,
translated from the French by Donald Nicholson-Smith,
introduction by Doug Headline,
with an afterword by Gary Indiana
Paperback – $14.95
Published by NYRB
An NYRB Classics Original
Publication Date: May 1, 2018
208 Pages
ISBN 9781681372105
French Literature
Literary Fiction

new translations
fleursdumal.nl magazine

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