Circus: A Novel; Or, Moira Orfei in Aigues-Mortes

Author: Koestenbaum, Wayne

Publication Date:

July 2019



Original language and publisher

English | Soft Skull

Territories Handled

France, Netherlands, Scandinavia


Literary Fiction

Circus: A Novel; Or, Moira Orfei in Aigues-Mortes

Author: Koestenbaum, Wayne

  • 2 Seas Represents: French, Dutch and Nordic countries rights


If Debussy and Robert Walser had collaborated on an opera, it would sound like this.―John Ashbery

The mad genius of Pale Fire with the florid outlaw sexuality of Jean Genet―Kirkus Reviews

For five years, concert pianist Theo Mangrove has been living at his family’s home in East Kill, New York, recovering from a nervous breakdown that derailed his career, and attempting to relieve his relentless polysexual appetite in the company of male hustlers, random strangers, music students, his aunt, and occasionally his wife. As he prepares for a comeback recital in Aigues-Mortes, a walled medieval town in southern France, he becomes obsessed with the idea that the Italian circus star Moira Orfei must join him there to perform alongside him. Extravagantly (and tragicomically) describing his hallucinatory plans in a series of twenty-five notebooks, he assembles an incantatory meditation on performance, failure, fame, decay, and delusion. A new edition of a “dazzlingly seductive” fever dream written in “brilliant poetic vernacular” (Bookforum) by a beloved poet and cultural critic, now with an introduction by Rachel Kushner.

Wayne Koestenbaum is a poet, critic, and artist. His books include The Queen’s Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire, a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist; Jackie Under My Skin: Interpreting an Icon; My 1980s and Other Essays; Humiliation; Hotel Theory; The Pink Trance Notebooks; and Camp Marmalade. He lives in New York City, where he is a Distinguished Professor of English at the CUNY Graduate Center.