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 . . .
Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .
In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .
There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .
Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .
In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .
Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .
Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .
There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in Morse, My Deaf Friend— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .
The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .