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 . . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .
It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .
As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .
It’s a rare and wonderful book that begins and ends with violence and humor. At the start of Etgar Keret’s The Seven Good Years, Keret is in a hospital waiting for the birth of his first child while nurses, in. . .
Last year, Han Kang’s The Vegetarian was an unexpected critical hit. Now, it’s just been published in the U.S. and has already received a great deal of positive critical attention. The Vegetarian was a bold book to attempt as an. . .
It’s been almost a year since the publication of Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah, but despite being included on the 2015 PEN Translation award longlist, and some pretty vocal support from key indie presses, the book has. . .