No Tomorrow by Vivant Denon – A Review

No Tomorrow (New York Review Books Classics)
Vivant Denon, pg 63

No Tomorrow is neither a love story, nor the remnants of a siliceous affair. It is a suggestion that doesn’t state, a book filled with lacuna where a modern would explain. Yet the story in its scant 30 pages (the other 30 is in French) is a reminder that the erotic need not be explicit.

The story follows a young man who has been having an affair with a Comtesse but she jilts him and by seeming chance he meets her friend Mme de T— in the Comtesse’s opera box. They begin a flirtation during the opera and she invites him back to her place, which is a mansion in the countryside she has begun to share again with her husband. Her husband is a sick man who she has agreed to reconcile with after man years. After he goes to bed, the narrator and Mme de T— go for a walk in the dark, stopping occasionally to embrace, kiss and talk. Finally, they end up in her room where he spends the night, only rushing from it when day light comes and her husband is beginning to wake.

Yet the night reveals more about what could be than what is. The farthest the narrator goes is to kiss and though he talks of love’s embrace, the night is part allegory and part ode to love, both physical and romantic. Where a modern would describe the act, the narrator and the Mme only talk. Yet it is obvious that if the affair continues it could go beyond what has occurred. Mme is very matter of fact in describing her other affairs and the separation she has had from her husband. So while the book is a celebration of desire and restrained passion, it plays against a back drop of long affairs and open marriages that suggests that the playfully suggestive can easily become more.

However, the book ends just as suddenly as it begins, as if it was just a brief interlude, a moment of pure pleasure without any repercussions. It is in that brief and free encounter that you see the ideal libertine romance: open, free, and playful. No Tomorrow is probably not a guide to love, but perhaps a tendency, a longing that despite its Ancien Régime setting is still easily recognizable.