Jean is a young aspiring “American in Paris” whose entire existence is turned on its head when he returns from Algeria to be with his lover Jillian only to have her vanish mysteriously just days later.
Refusing to believe she is dead, he embarks on a life-altering quest through Paris and rural France, convinced she the secret of her disappearance lies in the works of French surrealist poet and diagnosed schizophrenic Antonin Artaud, while also confronting the disturbing notion that if she is not dead the reasons behind her disappearance may be even more horrifying than her possible murder.
Forced to cooperate with her thesis advisor and bitterly jealous suitor Poilblanc, Jean immerses himself in the labyrinthine world of Artaud, losing himself in an increasingly nebulous maze of clues, which only seem to lead his quest further into absurdity.
His life spirals into nihilism and sexual excess as each inexplicable event (including an exploding doll’s leg sent to his address by a mysterious Jacob Sodergren) only deepens his uncertainty and suggests that her disappearance was part of a much bigger conspiracy, possibly directed against him for reasons he cannot begin to fathom.
Just when he resolves to give up and move on, the novel takes a surprising turn and the bizarre and shocking truth behind Jillian’s disappearance is finally revealed.
The Narcissist is comparable to Paul Auster's now iconic Cities of Glass from The New York Trilogy in its mixture of surrealism with psychological suspense. Metaphorically speaking, it is a stylish Film Noir classic written by Arthur Rimbaud and directed by Louis Ferdinand Celine, a work of literary fiction that defies all categorization.