Wed, Jun 02, 2004 - Page 6 News List

A verbless volume: misogyny, poison and caustic cameos

THE GUARDIAN , PARIS

A mysterious French author has produced what he claims is the first book written without a single verb.

Michel Thaler's 233-page work, Le Train de Nulle Part (The Train from Nowhere), contains lengthy passages of flowery prose but not a lot of action.

It is set on a train and features a series of caustic cameos of fellow passengers who, while not doing very much, manage to bring out the poison in Thaler's pen.

"Those women over there, probably mothers, bearers of ideas far too voluminous for their modest brains," the author writes.

Such passages have led critics to deplore the book's "rare misogyny," but Thaler is equally venomous about the men he encounters on his train journey.

One is described as "a large dwarf or small giant -- a young buck with a gelled mop" whose ideas were "almost certainly shorter than his hair."

The author, a 60-year-old doctor of literature who admits Thaler is a pseudonym but refuses to give his real name, is now planning a bizarre ceremony to bury the verb, which, he says, is an "invader, dictator and usurper of our literature."

Around 300 guests, including publishers and academics, have been invited to a "funeral" at the Sorbonne University in Paris today where there will be attendants in mourning dress and wreaths.

The police have banned guests marching behind a horse-drawn hearse as a "threat to public order."

Thaler, who hopes his book will be translated into English, says he loves words -- just not verbs.

"The verb is like a weed in a field of flowers. You have to get rid of it to allow the flowers to grow and flourish," he said. "Take away the verbs and the language speaks for itself."

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