(One star for an absurd ending and ubiquitous racism; five stars for beautiful prose.) Esclave by Gérard d'Houville, the pseudonym of Marie de Régnier (1875-1963), is the story of a creole, Antoine Ferlier, who returns to New Orleans around 1900 from his beloved Paris in the hopes of cashing in a significant inheritance. He hates everything there, from the run down buildings to the black servants, each more ugly than the last, until, awakened much too early in the morning, he drinks a cinammoned hot chocolate which reminds him of his boyhood on his father's sugar cane plantation. Antoine is vain, conceited and self-centered and views all but the young and beautiful with disdain as he promenades about the city. (You know the type.) He thinks of a former lover, Grace, from whom he departed to Paris without a word of goodbye and to whom he sent no word in the four years of his absence, and wonders if she has grown fat and messy with children; but an old friend he runs into at the races assures him that Grace is still the Grace of old, and, coincidentally, her husband is on business in Paris... But a younger cousin is already ahead of him in line.One can already anticipate a story, one I would find extremely tedious. But that story is not told in this book. The story told is, finally, simply ridiculous, but I shan't spoil it for others. Just let me record for posterity that Antoine is odious! And let me say a few words about the title, Slave, which ties into my displeasure with the outcome of the book. At one point there is a dinner at which two elderly Louisianians are arguing about the correctness of the abolition of slavery. After they have gone on at some length, Grace interrupts them with this interjection:Et qui de nous est donc libre ici? Nous sommes tous esclaves de quelqu'un ou de quelque chose, d'une manie, d'une circonstance, d'une affection, d'une habitude, d'un préjugé, d'une dévotion, d'un amour ou d'un souvenir. (An approximation: And who of us here is free? We are all slaves of someone or something, of an obsession, a circumstance, an affection, a habit, a prejudice, a devotion, a love or a memory.)She goes on like this for a while. Overlooking the moral abyss separating the slavery of men by other men from the obvious fact that we are not totally free agents in our lives, one could think she chimed in with this to somehow cool off the hot heads with an unimpeachable non sequitur . No, not at all. She is a "slave", and this will determine the outcome of the story. I would really like to know what women think of this story; I can hardly believe that a woman wrote it. I do know that if I favorably presented the main point of this book to any of my female friends, I would find myself speaking in a much higher register for the rest of my life.The author writes with a supple and sometimes precious French - "precious" in the sense of mannered - which definitely has its charms and is a great pleasure to read. Her racism has rather less charm for me; wherever a black person arrives, the words "ugly" or "ape" are never far behind, seriously. She loves clothes(*) and food, and, while the former leaves me yawning, the vast repasts of creole cuisine she describes with loving care left me recalling former delights and planning my next visit to the Big Easy.But what is with that ending? I don't believe a word of it... (*) In fact, she wrote at least one book about fashion.