François Félix Nogaret’s story of a young woman being asked to make a choice between six automata (mechanical figures) brings together technology and political allegory with a number of references to pre-revolutionary France. Automata were popular in France, both as extremely complicated toys for the wealthy, and as public spectacles. In the story the favoured inventors are two who create automata which go beyond the human/machine boundary. The first is a mechanical flautist who plays a tune so ravishing that the young woman faints – the inventor’s name is Wak-wik-vauk-on-son-frankésteïn (p. 42, shortened to Frankésteïn); this name includes a reference to a famous automata maker Vaucanson, as well as a name very close to the creator of the living being in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
The novel challenges the reader to think about the reading process: the reader is challenged offered the opportunity to tear out part of the book (an anti-clerical text by Voltaire) and give it away, if it is already known.