Continuing on about my French editorial trip that will end with the End of the World on Friday, I wanted to write a slightly more serious post just to share with everyone some of the interesting things I’ve been finding here. So, in order of books that are closest to my keyboard to those farther afield, here are the titles I’d sign on immediately if I could do anything I wanted and completely trusted my instincts (I can’t read French at all, at all):
Chamboula by Paul Fournel: First goal when I get back is to talk to Rachel Galvin about this, force JT to read it, and convince Kaija and Nate that we need to publish it. Why am I so psyched about this? A) Oulipo love. B) Fournel love (he’s so fantastic). And C) this chart that diagrams how the novel is structured:
Danse avec Nathan Golshem, Les aigles puent, and Haïkus de prison by Lutz Bassmann; Onze rêves de suie by Manuela Draeger: I’ve been going on and on and on about Antoine Volodine and his insanely awesome, all-encompassing heteronym project all year, and to receive the Bassmann books (almost by chance, since I just happened to notice his name in the Verdier backlist catalog and asked about them) is such a perfect coincidence. And really, given the scope of his project—the creation of the post-exoticism movement as demonstrated in the collected works of a slew of heteronyms, most of which tend to write about strange post-cataclysmic times with a style that’s completely unique to him—the more Volodine books published, the better.
Ni ce qu’ils espèrent, ni ce qu’ils croient by Élie Treese: What I remember from my meeting with the lovely people at Éditions Allia is that this 75-page book is “like Beckett mixed with Faulkner,” with four people sitting around a campfire talking about how to “steal the petrol” while one is secretly plotting to shoot all the of the others. “It’s pretty dark . . . but also ironic? Ironic and dark.”
En ville by Christian Oster: I like—to varying degrees—all the Oster books that I’ve read, starting with A Cleaning Woman (in part because I had a hard core crush on the girl in the movie version . . . massive, total crush), and culminating in In the Train, which my students also loved. This book is broader than most of the others, featuring a host of characters (rather than continuing to mine the Toussaint/Echenoz vain of keeping the whole story within the head of One Strange Dude), whose lives fall apart. In the words of Olivier Cohen, publisher of the amazing Éditions de l’Olivier, it’s “a book all about disorder.” Sounded pretty entropic when he was describing the plot, which got me excited.
That’s it for now. Off to my last meeting of the day . . .
Pedro Zarraluki’s The History of Silence (trans. Nick Caistor and Lorenza García) begins with the narrator and his wife, Irene, setting out to write a book about silence, itself called The History of Silence: “This is the story of how. . .
There are plenty of reasons you can fail to find the rhythm of a book. Sometimes it’s a matter of discarding initial assumptions or impressions, sometimes of resetting oneself. Zigmunds Skujiņš’s Flesh-Coloured Dominoes was a defining experience in the necessity. . .
In a culture that privileges prose, reviewing poetry is fairly pointless. And I’ve long since stopped caring about what the world reads and dropped the crusade to get Americans to read more poems. Part of the fault, as I’ve suggested. . .
I would like to pose the argument that it is rare for one to ever come across a truly passive protagonist in a novel. The protagonist (perhaps) of Three Light-Years, Claudio Viberti, is just that—a shy internist who lives in. . .
The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .
We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .
One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .
At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .
Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .