After skewering the music world with the wonderfully wicked My Other Spruce and Maple Self , Susan Finlay, with The Jacques Lacan Foundation, is giving a couple of jabs to academia.
Nicki Smith arrives from the UK to the American Jacques Lacan Foundation where she is going to translate a recently discovered Lacan notebook. The problem is that she has no knowledge of the French language. To be honest Nicki see the foundation as an opportunity to mock everything it stands for.
In between sleeping with hipster film director student, Diego ( don’t forget Lacan wrote about film theory) , Nicki, posing as under the name Lettuce baffles the intellectuals who try to give an academic edge to her name. Also as a non American, Smith uses American versions of words that are known differently across the pond, thus elevator instead of lift, purse instead of handbag, pants instead of trousers. All these words are italicized ( I assume this is a small homage to Lacan’s Symbolic stage where language is a proof of sorts in a different entity) . Does Lettuce actually finish the translation? well let’s say the novel ends in a grand farce or is it just Nicki in her mirror stage creating her own world?
In other words the Jacques Lacan Foundation is a romp. Susan Finlay puts Lettuce to many tests and absurdist situations and yet, despite how the novel flows, there is a lot going on. It’s a fun exterior but a clever punch from the inside. As my knowledge of Lacan is rudimentary, basically some crumbs I am sure I missed out quite a few things. I think of The Jacques Lacan Foundation as a less dirty, more madcap and more intellectual version of Terry Southern’s Candy: A girl meets a series of cracked intellectuals but , fortunately gets an upper hand in the end.
The Jacques Lacan Foundation may not seem like an easy read but do stick with it and it is an unforgettable experience. Where Susan Finaly goes next, I don’t know but it will definitely be different and exciting.
Many thanks to Moist Books for providing a copy of The Jacques Lacan Foundation