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Total 54.97
February 2014, English
13×19.8 cm, 496 pages, hardcover
ISBN 978-3-943365-96-2

The eighteenth century was an era of violent contrasts and radical change, intellectual brilliance and war, spies and diplomatic intrigue, elegance and cruelty. One of the century’s most mysterious figures was the Chevalier d’Eon, who lived as both man and woman, French spy and European celebrity. Written from the perspective of this historical figure, the novel by Brian O’Doherty—artist and author of, among others, the critical milestone Inside the White Cube and the Booker Prize–shortlisted The Deposition of Father McGreevy—reveals d’Eon’s radical modernity, certified by his attitudes to gender and his examination of his own nature. He ponders the social determinants of sexual identity and studies the manners and conventions governing discourse between the sexes. At the same time, as diplomat and spy, he is involved in the power politics of nations. The novel holds close to historical facts and reproduces some of d’Eon’s comments as recorded in his voluminous journals. Apparently his life did not become real to him until he had rehearsed it in writing.

The Crossdresser’s Secret is O’Doherty’s best book, the richest convergence of his erudition, polemical provocation and penchant for alter egos. The writing is brilliant, clear, unsentimental, and the pleasures afforded by it are grownup ones indeed.

— Brooks Adams,

The Brooklyn Rail

Who is the author? Is it Mary Josephson, critic for Art in America? Sigmund Bode, creator of the legendary fifth issue of Aspen? William Maginn, the pseudonymous writer? Or the artist Patrick Ireland, who was buried in Dublin in 2008? Which voice makes itself heard in these memoirs of the most famous secret agent of the eighteenth century? From which body emanates the voice of the Chevalier d’Eon, the most troubling gender illusionist of the dawn of the Revolution? Only Brian O’Doherty, an artist of multiple personas, could give this epic narrative the singular resonance and irony that makes a great historical novel.

— Patricia Falguières,

professor at École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris

Brian O’Doherty’s brilliant, multifaceted novel poses a conundrum in which gender, great ambition, huge talent, and fearless resolve combine to probe the nature of distinctiveness.

— Walter Abish,

author of How German Is It

Ravishingly written, meticulously researched, and ingeniously plotted, Brian O’Doherty’s picaresque novel is on par with Hilary Mantel’s evocations of the treacherous court of Henry VIII. Brian O’Doherty’s profound meditations on personal identity and political secrecy impart both an unexpected timeliness and a rare psychological depth to unforgettable scenes of ancien-régime duplicity, debauchery, and self-deception.

— Martin Filler,

contributor to the New York Review of Books