11 January 08 | Chad W. Post

As mentioned at the Literary Saloon, Matt Thorne has a review of Omega Minor by Paul Verhaeghen in today’s Independent.

As Michael Orthofer—who has been praising this book and its break-out potential for quite some time—points out, the book hasn’t been receiving a lot of attention on this side of the Atlantic. (The Dalkey site references pieces in the San Francisco Chronicle, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Bookslut.) This did make our Top 10 Translations of 2007 list, and is a brilliant book that’s definitely worth reading. (We probably would’ve reviewed it, but haven’t received a copy yet, and I don’t want to base a review on my memory of reading it in manuscript form.)

I want to echo Orthofer’s sentiment that hopefully this paucity of attention will change with the release of the book in the UK. Of course, Thorne points out some of the potential obstacles in the opening paragraph of his review:

It is hard to imagine Omega Minor, Paul Verhaeghen’s extraordinary new novel, having the same success in England as it has enjoyed in Germany, the Netherlands and the author’s native Belgium. Indeed, it seems likely that the author has translated the book himself not as a display of his polymath abilities but because he might have found it hard to find another translator prepared to take on a 700-page novel about cognitive psychology, quantum physics, Nazis and Neo-Nazis. It would be philistine not to admire the sheer ambition of the book, especially when the market for serious fiction is under endless assault, but the author has a number of quirks that may alienate some readers. Foremost is a bizarre fixation with ejaculation, prompting phrases such as “pearly liquid”, “creamy harvest”, “frothy broth” and, most imaginatively, “an acrobatic snake snapping at – but missing – its own tail”. There are dozens more.

Still, the review ends where it should, praising the qualities of this ambitious novel:

Omega Minor is undoubtedly a curate’s egg, but few recent novels rival its richness. And there is something admirable about an author who challenges not just the structural limitations of the novel, but also the limitations of our understanding of the universe. For all its flaws, this is an uncommonly intellectually stretching- and satisfying – experience.


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