Antoine Volodine [Open Letter Author of the Month]

In addition to the monthly themes, another new series for 2019 is a monthly featured author from the Open Letter backlist. Each month we’ll choose someone else from our backlist, write a number of posts about them and their work, and offer up a 30% on all purchases made during that month.

And for January we’ve decided to look at Antoine Volodine!

This makes obvious sense, since his novel Radiant Terminus will be the next Two Month Review title (first episode will be coming to you LIVE from the ABQ on 1/23), and if you’re going to read this one, you’re going to want all of the others . . .

Given that there will be a number of posts going up over the next few weeks about Volodine and Radiant Terminus and all of his other books, I’ll keep this short and just share the most important piece of information: use the code VOLODINE at checkout to get 30% off the following books.

Post-Exoticism in Ten Lessons, Lesson Eleven was the first Volodine book that Open Letter published. J.T. Mahany had translated a sample of it—and wrote a reader’s report—for my publishing class, and from the very first paragraph, I was hooked. (We’ll post a full sample of all three of these books tomorrow.)

It’s an essential book for understanding Volodine’s “post-exoticist” universe—something that will definitely come up throughout this season of the Two Month Review.

Here’s the jacket copy:

Like with Antoine Volodine’s other works (Minor AngelsWe Monks & Soldiers), Post-Exoticism in Ten Lessons, Lesson Eleven takes place in a corrupted future where a small group of radical writers—those who practice “post-exoticism”—have been jailed by those in power and are slowly dying off. But before Lutz Bassmann, the last post-exoticist writer, passes away, journalists will try and pry out all the secrets of this powerful literary movement.

With its explanations of several key “post-exoticist” terms that appear in Volodine’s other books, Lesson Eleven provides a crucial entryway into one of the most ambitious literary projects of recent times: a project exploring the revolutionary power of literature.

The second title of his that Open Letter brought out was Bardo or Not Bardo, a collection of short stories about the Tibetan afterlife, translated by J.T. Mahany again, beloved by Tom Roberge, and recipient of the inaugural Albertine Prize.

One of Volodine’s funniest books, Bardo or Not Bardo takes place in his universe of failed revolutions, radical shamanism, and off-kilter nomenclature.

In each of these seven vignettes, someone dies and has to make his way through the Tibetan afterlife, also known as the Bardo, where souls wander for forty-nine days before being reborn with the help of the Book of the Dead.

Unfortunately, Volodine’s characters bungle their chances at enlightenment: the newly dead end up choosing to waste away their afterlife sleeping or to be reborn as an insignificant spider. The living aren’t much better off and make a mess of things in their own way, to the point of mistaking a Tibetan cookbook for the holy book.

Once again, Volodine has demonstrated his range and ambition, crafting a moving, hysterical work about transformations and the power of the book.

Most recently we published Radiant Terminus, translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman, with a wonderful introduction by Brian Evenson. I have a lot to say about this book, how it fits in with the others that have been translated into English (and those that haven’t), but I’ll save it for the podcast. My logline though? It’s season one Jessica Jones set in a Russian wasteland.

This is one of his most sci-fi books, and one that really captured the imagination and respect of a number of critics. And despite it’s typical Volodine-esque nature, this is a book with a (mostly) discernable plot that will keep you hooked.

The most patently sci-fi work of Antoine Volodine’s to be translated into English, Radiant Terminus takes place in a Tarkovskian landscape after the fall of the Second Soviet Union. Most of humanity has been destroyed thanks to a number of nuclear meltdowns, but a few communes remain, including one run by Solovyei, a psychotic father with the ability to invade people’s dreams—including those of his daughters—and torment them for thousands of years.

When a group of damaged individuals seek safety from this nuclear winter in Solovyei’s commune, a plot develops to overthrow him, end his reign of mental abuse, and restore humanity.

Fantastical, unsettling, and occasionally funny, Radiant Terminus is a key entry in Volodine’s epic literary project that—with its broad landscape, ambitious vision, and interlocking characters and ideas—calls to mind the best of David Mitchell.

Again, until midnight on January 31st, you can get 30% off all of these books via the Open Letter website. Just use VOLODINE at checkout!

And remember to subscribe to the Two Month Review on iTunes (or wherever you get your podcasts) and on our YouTube channel (that’s where the real fun takes place).

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