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Posthumous Correspondence

by Restif de la Bretonne
adapted by Brian Stableford

Short Stories

Volume 1

Restif gave free rein to his imagination in Posthumous Correspondence (first written in 1787-89; augmented in 1796, and finally published in 1802), presented as a sequence of letters between Monsieur de Fontlhète and his beloved wife Hortense. Posthumous Correspondence was intended to be the most ambitious, fantastic and all-encompassing of all the exotic literary endeavors that Restif had originally planned to write, the ultimate version of his speculative cosmogony.

In this first volume, Fontlhète makes contact with Yfflasie and Clarendon, two discorporated souls and learns of their adventures in the afterlife; later, he acquires artificial wings, uses his new-found power to oppose evil and fight crime, taking on tyrants and warmongers, then gains the ability of exchanging identities by taking over other people's bodies with his own soul.

Cover by Mike Hoffman

Published by Black Coat Press, June 2016
ISBN: 978-1-61227-513-0


Volume 2

In the second volume, we meet Duke Multipliandre, whose adventures include not only the acquisition of several superpowers, but a vast series of erotic exploits, some involving the ability of exchanging identities by taking over other people's bodies. After visiting many exotic lands, Multipliandre boldly crosses the boundaries of the known world, in order to explore the hypothetical world of Restif's cosmogonic and evolutionary theories traveling to the Moon and Mars.

Cover by Mike Hoffman

Published by Black Coat Press, June 2016
ISBN: 978-1-61227-514-7



Volume 3

In the third and final volume, Duke Multipliandre visits the other known planets of the solar system and numerous other worlds then unknown to science, including trans-Uranian planets, a comet and three planets within the orbit of Mercury, and interacts with their peculiar inhabitants. After that, he sets off to visit several other solar systems, including those of Sirius and Vega, and several nebulae, before concluding his journey in the "astral center," into which the entire universe will one day be dissolved, before being regenerated as an entirely new universe. Multipliandre then returns to Earth, where, immortal by virtue of his super-powers, he settles down to witness the entire future of the Earth, initially coping with a new form of life born from a close encounter between the planet and a comet, which produces, among other plant and animal species, a race of winged humans, whom Multipliandre calls "angels."

Cover by Mike Hoffman

Published by Black Coat Press, June 2016
ISBN: 978-1-61227-515-4

Review by Glenn Russell

"My aim, in the composition of this extraordinary work, is the same as that of Pythagoras on his arrival in Italy, to cure humans of the vain fear of death, a fear tripled or multiplied a hundredfold by Christianity." from the Preface to his Posthumous Correspondence - Réstif de la Bretonne

Réstif de la Bretonne (1734-1806), French novelist and essayist, author of nearly two hundred books on a vast number of subjects, a writer frequently associated with four fun facts: Réstif’s 1769 treatise on prostitution, Le Pornographe, is where we get the word pornography; his term retifism for shoe fetishism was named after him; he continually pushed the envelope on obscenity to test the limits of censorship; and, how he and the Marquis de Sade maintained a mutual hatred (unlike de Sade, Rétif viewed sex as a splendid opportunity to bring great pleasure and delight to oneself and one’s partner). What an innovative thinker and writer.

Black Coat Press has done a great service in making six Réstif de la Bretonne books available to English readers, including Posthumous Correspondence in three separate volumes. Regarding Volume 1, the book under review, translator/adapter Brian Stableford outlines in his twenty page Introduction, the historic and cultural context of de la Bretonne’s work, addressing how the prolific French author maintained quite “modern” views not only respecting morals but even recognizing, many years prior to Charles Darwin, the significance of evolutionary theory, integrating his unique understanding and interpretation of the evolution of various species throughout the cosmos into his fictionalized accounts.

As Mr. Stableford notes and I came to appreciate, the format of Posthumous Correspondence provided the author broad license to fantasize to his heart’s content, shifting focus as he explored death as so many spectacular wonderlands of opportunity. And what exactly is the format of this one-of-a-kind work of the imagination? Answer: a series of letters exchanged between Monsieur de Fontlhète and his beloved wife Hortense.

In this first volume, Monsieur makes contact with Yfflasie and Clarendon, a husband and wife who are now souls without a body since they were victims of a tragic death at the point of orgasm on their wedding night. Fontlhète learns of their many and varied adventures in the afterlife and conveys all the fabulous details to Hortense. As a way of sharing a taste of the contents, here are several highlights:

Monsieur de Fontlhète informs Hortense how she has a foretaste of the perfect happiness awaiting us all after the removal of our bondage to the body: pleasant dreams! As we read in the Preface to this three volume work, the prime motivation for the author in setting pen to paper in the first place was to cure humans of the fear of death, a fear multiplied by the prevalent Christian religion. Even in the twentieth century, far removed from the days of Restif de la Bretonne, in my boyhood, when I myself listened to or read about souls being tormented in the fires of hell, I sensed there was something disturbing, even sadistic, about such tales. And the last time I heard a buffoonish bigmouth jabbering about men and women not sharing his faith ultimately burning in hell, I reflected that he was at least consistent, since, in many other ways, he had a pronounced sadistic streak.

Three direct quotes where Fontlhète means to lift the spirits of his Hortense: “I shall prepare stories, such as have never been written, because no one has had the opportunity to return to the Source, as I am doing.” “The soul is immortal since it is divine; it will live; it will remember; it will love those it loves.” “Yfflasie and Clarendon had just expired, while embracing. Even Destiny can never separate those who die thus, in the blossoming expansion of amour and procreation: it is the greatest of joys . . . And they united themselves again, with an inexpressible sentiment of tenderness and wellbeing.” As Fontlhète wishes to lift the spirits of Hortense, so Restif de la Bretonne desires to lift the spirits of his readers. I can assure you, all one hundred letters composed by Fontlhète along with Hortense’s response to each letter make for an exhilarating read.

Fontlhète goes into exquisite detail involving the journeys of Yffflais and Clarendon. “They traveled the globe. They wanted to see all the continents and all the islands. What voluptuousness! They visited the Earth with more facility than a Parisian bourgeois measures his sandy little garden, planted with four lindens in a fan, a lilac and two rose-bushes. They obtained an accurate idea of all nations.” And not only lands, the two lovers have occasion to meet and speak with the likes of Louis XIII and Louis XIV, Voltaire and Molière and many other notables, learning all sorts of provocative tidbits revolving around the rich and famous and what they are all up to as discorporated souls.

According to Fontlhète, our earthy sphere mirrors the incorporeal world, that everything we experience as humans is an imitation of its higher equivalent. Do I hear echoes of Plato and Plotinus? Again, all of Fontlhète’s words are made in an effort to remove any feelings of fear or dread we might hold when it comes to death. To underscore the pleasure one will experience after our corporal existence, Fontlhète goes so far as to say: “How mistaken Homer is in assuring us that the estate of souls is so miserable, and that they continually regret their bodies; that idea is immoral, destructive of virtue and courage, and contrary to the truth.”

Toward the end of Volume One, Fontlhète proclaims: “I semi-discorporated myself yesterday, in order to see the continuation of the souls, but alas, man proposes and God disposes; I found myself a winged man, not by means of the graundy invented by the English but with artificial and mechanical wings having a rapid movement of those of the butterflies that one sees in summer sucking from flowers without ever resting or alighting.” And our letter writer resolves to use his wings and newfound powers for the well-being and benefit of the world. In other words, we have the forerunner of all those familiar comic book flying superheroes who work for truth and justice and battle against the forces of evil. Restif de la Bretonne picks up on this superhero theme as he continues his Posthumous Correspondence in Volume 2. I highly recommend you join the adventure and let your imagination soar.

The Brian Stableford Website