Qiu Miaojin's philosophical investigation of love and grief
Last Words from Montmartre (New York Review Books Classics)
by Qiu Miaojin
$14.95 List Price
Nineteen years ago, at the age of twenty-six, Qiu Miaojin, a much-lauded Taiwanese novelist, killed herself. At the time of her death she was living in Paris—leading a lively and queer intellectual life very much like the narrator of this 161-page epistolary novel. The sensational quality (and here I mean the sensations one feels when encountering a book by an author who killed herself upon its completion) of its content in relation to its seeming parallels with Qiu Miaojin’s life is an inextricable part of the reading. The book is an entirely postmodern act. It is as if Goethe killed himself right after Werther or Chris Kraus after I Love Dick. And one can’t ignore the peculiarity of the moment of its composition, 1995, which might’ve been the last true analog year. Do you remember how “it” felt before the Internet? Part of the marvel of this small obsessive book is that it falls exactly into that glowing breach.
Holding to a perverse realism, Last Words from Montmartre’s dedication names a pet rabbit the narrator had bought with her ex-lover Xu, the addressee of so many of the letters here, who has betrayed and abandoned the narrator in the past year. Qiu announces on the first page that the rabbit has died, so even the book’s dedication is a spoiler. It reads: “For dead little Bunny and Myself, soon dead.” Is this a gift with a note, or a note with a gift? Either way, it is well received. Qiu’s first novel, Notes of a Crocodile (1994), was released just days after a reporter had gone to a lesbian bar in Taipei with a camera and put the footage on TV. The lesbianity of