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 . . .
Originally published in French in 2007, We’re Not Here to Disappear (On n’est pas là pour disparaître) won the Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste and the Prix Pierre Simon Ethique et Réflexion. The work has been recently translated by Béatrice Mousli. . .
Even though the latest from Jean Echenoz is only a thin volume containing seven of what he calls “little literary objects,” it is packed with surprises. In these pieces, things happen below the surface, sometimes both literally and figuratively. As. . .
Who is this woman? This is the question that opens Xiao Bai’s French Concession, a novel of colonial-era Shanghai’s spies and revolutionaries, police and smugglers, who scoot between doorways, walk nonchalantly down avenues, smoke cigars in police bureaus, and lounge. . .
For the past 140 years, Anna Karenina has been loved by millions of readers all over the world. It’s easy to see why: the novel’s two main plots revolve around characters who are just trying to find happiness through love.. . .
Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .
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. . .