Vivant Denon is a name that most people don’t know. And yet, for those who have visited the Louvre, it may have a particular ring to it. If you take a look at the museum map, you will see it right next to Richelieu and Sully as one of the three wings of the grandiose palace; and if you do a bit more research, you will see that Denon was Director of Museums under Napoleon Bonaparte and was instrumental in the creation of the museum as we now know it.
But what is less known (and equally interesting) is that he wrote a piece of celebrated cult fiction, a libertine novella called No Tomorrow, that is a pure delight.
Unlike other great classics of libertine literature, No Tomorrow is light, delicate, and concerned purely with the reader enjoying themselves as they spend a night with a young man who has been drawn into a gloriously scandalous affair between a countess, her husband, and a marquis. Like all works in the genre, it involves the opera, a chateau, and a group of depraved, despicable, and sometimes quite funny aristocrats. Throughout the course of the story’s invigorating thirty pages, we feel the thrill of attraction and desire through the author’s exceptional prose, hurtling towards an erotic, joyful, and meaningless conclusion.
“I looked hard for the moral of this whole adventure…and found none.” Enjoy this unedifying but highly entertaining tale!
No Tomorrow, a novel by Vivant Denon, trans. from the French by Lydia Davis, New York Review Classics