Tag Archives: French

Forthcoming: Radiant Terminus by Antoine Volodine

radiantterminusAntoine Volodine’s radioactive phantasmagoria, in which futuristic communism is intertwined with the magic of East Slavic oral traditions, is forthcoming from Open Letter Books in Jeffrey Zuckerman’s translation. You might remember that I mentioned this novel among the most notable releases of the Rentrée Literaire in 2014. Voilà, in a few months you will have the opportunity to decide for yourselves if there are any limits to the wild imagination of this particular heteronym of the French author, who also writes under the names of Elli Kronauer, Lutz Bassmann, and Manuela Draeger. If you’d like to get some idea about the person behind all these noms de plume, I recommend reading the interview he gave to The Paris Review in 2015 .

In the distant future, the city of Orbise, the last stronghold of communism in Siberia, falls into the hands of the invading hordes. The scale of the catastrophe is comparable to the capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks. This is the final downfall of the Second Soviet Union. Two men and a woman fleeing the destroyed city venture into the vast expanse of the bleak and unwelcoming steppe, collecting lethal rays emitted by the ruined nuclear plants that used to provide collective farms with electricity. They are looking for a safe haven that would accept and take care of the proletarian fugitives like themselves. Perhaps kolkhoz Radiant Terminus is just the place?

The truly radiant heart of the kolkhoz is a huge warehouse built around a two-kilometer deep hole created by the sinking reactor in the wake of the melt-down of the farm’s nuclear station. Since that time, this luminous well has been serving as an omnivorous dumping shaft, swallowing with equal appetite radioactive debris and the hapless individuals who have fallen into disgrace with the local authorities. The chief of the kolkhoz is known simply as Solovyei. His name (the Russian for “nightingale”) is an obvious reference  to Solovei the Brigand, the notorious villain of Russian bylinas. The anarchistically-minded leader of this forgotten commune is impervious to radiation, possesses shamanistic abilities of entering other people’s dreams and expresses his creativity by composing hallucinatory texts which are as far from the dogmas of socialist realism as it gets. Equally immune to the deathly particles is his first wife Mémé Oudgoul, who is in the habit of talking to the sunken reactor when she is not busy feeding it.

nikolai-blokhin-solovei

Nikolai Blokhin, Соловей-разбойник (Solovei the Brigand). Image source

Well, that’s what I call a promising start. If you fancy lingering a bit longer in the grotesque world sketched above as well as learning scores of names of different herbs encountered in the taiga region, you’re welcome to pay a visit to Radiant Terminus this February.

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Three Notable Novels

Here are some highlights about this year’s three notable books written in languages other than English .  The German novels have already been published, whereas the French one is coming soon.

DurchzugEinesRegenbandesThe first German title that caught my attention is Ulrich Ziegler’s novel Durchzug eines Regenbandes (Passage of a Rainband). Ten years in the making, it is a dense, stylistically exuberant triptych channeling the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales, the classic cinema of the 1920s and 30s and popular German TV shows. In the first part, which exudes a film noir atmosphere, a journalist called Norden meets a stranger who tells him the incredible story of the Island Bienitz and its hierarchic society. The man with the exotic name Weh-Theobaldy belongs to the oppressed ethnic minority of Lapislazuli who are forced to wear paper clothes and do menial jobs. Weh-Theobaldy’s confession to a murder triggers Norden’s investigation into a tangled web of secret plots and conspiracies. The second part is set in GDR in 1969. Its main focus is yet another investigation: the search for an old lady who disappeared in the coal cellar of her own house. The protagonist of this part is a pop singer who performs cover versions of West German schlagers. The main character of the third part is a hard-drinking, delirious painter. The bulk of the narrative is made up of his stream of consciousness, sprinkled with numerous references to television lore. The German reviewers describe Passage of a Rainband as a confusing puzzle of a book, which might require several readings to make sense.

1330_01_Kopetzki_Risiko.inddIf you enjoyed Against the Day, you might be interested in a novel that specifically focuses on the Great Game, which, as you remember, was one of the pivotal subjects in Pynchon’s book. Steffen Kopetzky’s Risiko (Risk), which, like Ziegler’s novel, also took its author ten years to write, is a meticulously researched fictional account of  the The Niedermayer–Hentig Expedition. The main goal of this mission was to persuade Afghanistan to declare independence from the British Empire and side with the Central Powers in World War I. In this book we follow the adventures of navy radio operator Sebastian Stichnote, who joins the secret expedition and travels together with the other members 5,000 kilometers across Western and Central Asia. The broad canvas of the narrative does not only include loads of geographical, historical and cultural data, but also accommodates amusing anachronisms and postmodern games with the reader.

SengesAchab

Finally, all those who have been waiting for the publication of the English translation of Pierre Senges’ encyclopedic novel Fragments of Lichtenberg, there is something else to get excited about: the French writer is about to publish a new novel, which is as bulky as Fragments. The novel is called Achab (Sequelles)  (Ahab (Aftermath)) and, as evident from the title, it is about the fate of Captain Ahab after his last encounter with the white whale narrated at the end of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Senges’ Ahab tries to capitalise on his tragic experiences by attempting to sell his story first as a musical on the Broadway, and then as a script for a Hollywood movie. There will also be flashbacks to Ahab’s youth when he embarked on a voyage to London at the age of 17, intending to become an actor. The synopsis promises the appearance of Cary Grant, Orson Welles and Scott Fitzgerald.

There seems to be a heightened interest in Herman Melville recently, as the Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai’s next project is “a novel about Melville after the publication of Moby Dick” which he will be working on at the Cullman Center.

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Submission (Soumission) by Michel Houellebecq

Soumission

The European civilisation subjugated and humiliated by the onslaught of Islamist hordes, the forced conversions, the public executions in the squares, the burning of “profane” books,  all this to the accompaniment of a plangent summons of a muezzin up in the minaret of a gigantic mosque erected on the site of the torn-down Notre Dame de Paris… If this is how you imagine the new novel by Michel Houellebecq, my advice is: spare the money and buy some science fiction dystopia dealing with the subject instead. I guess there should be something on the market these days. At the end of the day, Submission is not so much about the dreaded islamisation of Europe, as it is about the problem of getting laid for the man on the wrong side of forty. Just like the rest of Houellebecq’s works, n’est-ce pas?

Submission  is a breezy read and ideal fodder for the hungover reviewer recuperating from a spell of overindulgency during the Christmas and New Year holidays. What I like about Houellebecq is that his books don’t send me to the dictionary too often, a fancy phrase or an abstruse word is not the hallmark of his rather pedestrian writing style. It’s opinions, observations, and once again opinions, which matter the most when one opens any of his books.

To get it out of my system from the very outset, I will allow myself the luxury of alluding to Karl Marx’s oft-quoted statement about historical facts occurring the first time as tragedy, and the second as farce. In case of Houellebecq, there is a farce at the beginning, and genuine ennui the second time. Yes, he does it again. In his new novel he rips off whole sentences (sometimes with minor alterations) from French Wikipedia, just the way he did in his Prix Goncourt winning The Map and the Territory . You surely must remember the debate about his borrowings from the free encyclopedia in the previous novel. This time he steals from the article about the Greek mythological prophet Casandra. Maybe there is more, but, for the life of me, I couldn’t bother to check further. With his Submission,  Houellebecq seems to have fully (excuse the awful pun) submitted to the cliché-ridden concept of what a typical Houellebecq novel should be like. He ticks all the boxes, knowing quite well, that it is exactly what his numerous readers crave for.

The novel is set in 2022. The protagonist of Submission is a 44-year old  professor of literature at Sorbonne called François. He is a specialist in K. J. Huysmans, giving lectures on 19th century French literature and occasionally publishing articles in the scholarly magazine Journal des dix-neuviémistes. After a succession of various affairs with the female students at the university (first as a fellow-student, then as an instructor)  he finds his ability to experience sexual pleasure on the wane  and starts spending more time masturbating to online pornography. He is bitter, callous, cynical, frustrated, a bit of a racist, quite a lot of a misogynist, … you name it.

François’s life radically changes after the Muslim candidate Mohammed Ben Abbes is elected president of France. This becomes possible because the Socialist Party, The Union for a Popular Movement and The Union of Democrats and Independents  enter into a coalition with the Muslim Brotherhood (an imaginary party of French Muslims) to prevent the National Front from winning the elections. As a result of the agreement between the members of the coalition, François Bayrout (the current leader of the Democratic Movement in France) is appointed prime minister. From the very beginning it becomes apparent that he has no political weight of his own, his main role being to unconditionally support the new policy of the Muslim president. What is noteworthy, is that the Muslim Brotherhood is not so much interested in the economy of the country as in the demographics and education. The new government carries out major reforms in public schools and state universities. As a result, the main university in France gets renamed as the Islamic University of Paris-Sorbonne and is lavishly funded by the petrodollars of Saudi Arabia. Women lecturers are summarily dismissed, and all the female students have to wear the veil. As you can imagine, such a turn of events is unlikely to rejoice the middle-aged womanising academic. Of course, these changes are just part of the major political and cultural overhaul initiated by the new authorities. Being moderate Muslims, the Brotherhood do not do anything rash, at least not yet. The changes in the society are gradual, even subtle, but still quite considerable already in the first month of Mohammed Ben Abbes’ tenure.

François spends the turbulent change of the regime away from the rioting Paris in the town of Martel (ironically enough, near the site of the historic Battle of Tour in which the Muslim invasion of Europe was checked in 732) most of the time cut off from any information about what is going on in the capital. When he finally returns to Paris, it is the noticeable alterations in the female fashion which alert him to the fact that France is becoming a different country:

And the female clothes had changed; I felt it immediately, although failing to analyse this transformation. The number of Islamic veils had hardly increased; it wasn’t that, and it took me almost an hour of wandering to grasp all at once what had changed: all the women were wearing trousers. The detection of women’s thighs, the mental projection reconstructing the pussy at their crossing, the process whose power of excitement is directly proportional to the length of the naked legs: all this was in me so much involuntarily, automatic, genetic as it were, that I had not become aware of the fact immediately, but the evidence was there, dresses and skirts had disappeared. A new garment had also become widespread: a kind of long cotton blouse reaching the mid-thigh, which killed all the objective interest in skintight trousers certain women could have eventually worn. As for shorts, they were obviously out of the question. The contemplation of the female ass, a small dreamy consolation, had also become impossible.

Upon his return to Paris, François also learns that as a non-Muslim he has lost his position at the university. This might have been a cause for serious financial concern if the Saudi funding had not provided him with a pension of  3,472 Euros a month. For his colleagues who have chosen to convert so that they can teach at the new university, the situation has turned into something straight from One Thousand and One Nights: they start receiving a whopping 10,000-Euro monthly salary as well obtaining beautiful young wives. As for François, his chances of finding a  female companion are rather low at this point. The only mistress pool available to him, i. e. the female university students, has become inaccessible after his retirement. He has to resort to an Internet escort service after his Jewish girlfriend has left France for Israel — understandably enough, the prospect of living in a country ruled by Muslims has triggered a wave of Jewish emigration.

When François comes into rich inheritance left by his father, he realises that he does not have to work for a living any more. But the financial comfort and the opportunity to use prostitutes cannot completely satisfy the retired professor, as there is still smouldering need for scholarly accomplishment and genuine female interest. The former suddenly becomes possible thanks to the commission by the renowned Bibliothèque de la Pléiade to supervise the publication of the annotated collected works of Huysmans within the series. François jumps on the opportunity and starts preparing notes and the preface to this edition. While he is pursuing the task, we learn quite a lot about this writer and his life. One of the most significant moments in Huysmans’ biography is his sudden conversion to Catholicism which he later fictionalised in the second volume of the Durtal tetralogy. We cannot help but start realising that by revisiting Huysmans’ life and work in his editorial endeavour, François might be also on his way to conversion, although in his case it will not be Catholicism, that’s for sure.

When François pays a visit to the president of the Islamic University of Paris-Sorbonne, a Belgian convert called Robert Rediger, he accidentally runs into his teenage wife Aisha domestically dressed in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. She is his second wife. Later he meets the first one, the forty-year old Malika who cooks exceptionally delicious puffed pastry. The physical merits of one wife and  the culinary skills of the other make a lasting impression on the guest.  During their conversation, Redeger provides a host of arguments in favour of  Islam, even falling back on the major discoveries in astronomy and physics that, in his opinion, support the fact of the existence of the unique God. When the meeting is over, the president  gives François his Ten Questions about Islam, a brief overview of the major principles of the religion. It is not surprising that, when later reading the little book,  the main character finds the chapter discussing polygamy particularly interesting . The sight of the fifteen-year old Aisha with a shock of black hair, wearing jeans and a T-shirt is a strong argument that cannot be brushed aside easily. When the preface and the explanatory notes to the new edition of Huysmans’ works are finished, François receives a proposal to return to the university. He realises that at this point he will have to make one of the most important choices in his life.

Map of Eurabia

Map of Eurabia

The personal drama of François develops on the background of important political transformations as the European Union slowly but surely starts accepting Muslim states into its fold. The first acceding countries are Morocco, Algeria, Turkey and Tunisia. Egypt and Lebanon are to join them in the near future. There have also been some initial contacts with Libya and Syria. One doesn’t need to have an exceptional geopolitical acumen to predict that at this rate in one generation Europe as we know it will cease to exist and will be transformed into a new Caliphate. In order to read what this political formation might be like, you will have to wait for Vladimir Sorokin’s Telluria to be translated. Submission does not look that far into the development of our civilisation. Which is just as well, because, when it comes to vivid descriptions of a dystopian future, Houellebecq is not the best author to turn to. In this novel the French writer manages to sum up some of the topical problems facing the European Union and to give scathing commentary on contemporary French politics. Whether one has to read a whole novel for that, is up for you to decide. Politics aside, Submission provides a convenient excursus into the life and works of K. J. Huysmans, convincingly making case for reading more of this writer. There are also interesting references to the poet Charles Pierre Péguy and his long Christian poem Eve which bemoans the decline and dissolution of humanity. The readers belonging  to the academia will find a lot of nudging references to their internal problems and insecurities. And, surely, there are some pithy observations that are bound to be quoted by the media for the months to come, one of which is definitely the following:

It is an idea that I would hesitate to expose before my coreligionists, for they, perhaps, will consider it a bit blasphemous, but for me there is a relation between the absolute submission of the woman to man, such as described in Story of O, and the submission of man to God, such as envisaged by Islam.

HouellebecqCharlie1The publication of the novel coincided with the horrible massacre at Charlie Hebdo. The latest issue of the magazine featured a caricature of Houellebecq on its cover. As you might remember, in my post about the forthcoming publication of Submission, I expressed hope that it would not provoke aggression against the author on the part of Muslim radicals. Now that I have read the book, I do not think it will be the case. The novel turned out by far more tame than I could have expected. Most of the readers who have bought it anticipating  loud confrontational statements against Islam will  be most probably disappointed. Very indicative of this  distanced attitude is Houellebecq’s recent interview to The Paris Review, in which he says:

But I am not an intellectual. I don’t take sides, I defend no regime. I deny all responsibility, I claim utter irresponsibility—except when I discuss literature in my novels, then I am engaged as a literary critic. But essays are what change the world.

Indeed, when acting  as a literary critic through the main character, Houellebecq shows his best in the novel. That is when the lukewarmness disappears, and he is utterly engrossed in the subject. Submission had hit the first place on the French Amazon bestseller list already two weeks prior to its publication and at the time of writing this review is firmly established in this position. It would be great if the works of J. K. Huysmans tangentially benefited from the predictable roaring success of Houellebecq’s admonition  to Europe.

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The Absolute Marshal (Le Maréchal absolu) by Pierre Jourde

LeMarechalAbsoluCorrect me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that Pierre Jourde’s doorstopper went largely unnoticed in the English language media discussing the rentrée of 2012. The more interesting it appeared to me, since I am wildly excited by the recent spate of big novels in French, the point of departure being the publication of Les Bienveillantes (The Kindly Ones) in 2006. Mind you, I regard The Absolute Marshal as a seriously flawed novel, a noble failure of sorts, but its grand ambition could not leave me indifferent. Evoking the recent political upheavals in the Middle East, Pierre Jourde created a kind of summa of the dictator novel in which Borgesian conundrums are intertwined with large-scale geopolitical surrealism reminiscent of Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow and Against the Day. Very indicative of the overall tone of the novel are the six epigraphs taken from Valère Novarina, Shakespeare, Saddam Hussein, José Gaspar de Francia, Lawrence Durrell, and, of course, Jorge Luis Borges.

Marshal Alessandro Y is a monstrous crossbreed between Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and Idi Amin with the intertextual pedigree reaching  back to the fictionalised Doctor Francia of Roa Bastos’ I the Supreme and the giants in Francois Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel. We first encounter him in the midst of a civil war, besieged  by rebels in the capital of the imaginary country Hyrcasia. Most of the dictator’s bloviation is addressed to his elderly servant Manfred-Célestin. The story of the marshal unfolds as he berates, derides and belittles his faithful  factotum. Although invested in absolute power, the marshal does not hold absolute control over  the story-telling. The novel is divided into four parts narrated by four different characters: the marshal, one of the marshal’s doubles, Schlangenfeld (a woman serving in the Secret Service of the dictator), and the said  humble servant Manfred-Célestin disguised as “a granny”.  In the course of each of the four narrations, fractal by fractal, the psychedelic picture of the marshal’s reign is assembled before our eyes.

For his novel Jourde has created a hybrid geography in which imaginary countries with such names as Araxia and Novopotamia co-exist with real states. Hyrcasia is one such make-believe entity with a desert climate. Its supreme leader is a grotesque caricature of a dictator who seeks to expand and multiply his power by any means available. All the boxes are ticked with an audacious brio. Alessandro Y embarks on a military career while still a child, serving in a special unit composed of minors. He quickly ascends the career ladder to become the chief of the Presidential Guard, takes part in a military coup, and, after eliminating his competitors, becomes the supreme leader of the country. A pretty well-known scenario at this time and age. What dictator doesn’t want to conquer a piece of land? The marshal is no exception here. His military campaign is satyric and outright ludicrous to such a degree that at a certain point I stopped even trying to catch some not-so-obvious hints at historical events, and simply kept reading it as a grotesque and wildly entertaining set piece. The conquest starts with Araxia, a small country not unlike Kuwait, invaded by Saddam Hussein in 1990. From this humble beginning, the dictator’s conquest spreads across most of Eurasia owing to the military genius of Field Marshal Ghore, the commander of the Hyrcasian troops. In its wake, the rapidly advancing army leaves a constellation of puppet governments, sowing the seeds of the potential internecine conflicts and insurgency that will break out as soon as the imperial grasp loosens on the occupied territories expanded to unmanageable proportions. The great campaign begins and ends like a computer game, which corresponds to the zeitgeist of most of the recent warfare.

Besides being cruel, a dictator should be a crank. Alessandro Y possesses both features in spades. His major passions are dinosaurs and the taxidermy of political enemies. Receptions usually take place in a great paleontology hall exhibiting dozens of skeletons of pre-historic monsters: everything from the indispensable tyrannosauruses to species less known by the general public, like gorgonopsids and deinonychuses. However, the dictator seems to be even more passionate about the basement of his palace where he can admire the “dolls”. Those are numerous opponents of the regime, either genuine or alleged, skilfully treated and stuffed under the supervision of Colonel Gris, the head of the Secret Service . One can imagine something right of Gunther von Hagens’ Body Worlds, but there arise more sinister connotations when we learn that not all the corpses remained intact:

There Gris exercised his art on the conspirators. You wouldn’t recognise them: their bones serving as radiator caps, their hollowed-out members turned into umbrella stands, their thoraxes into liquor cabinets, their skulls transformed into cigarette lighters with eyes that light up; somebody’s skin covering somebody else’s body like a slightly wrinkled slipcase. He grafted a stool on an old minister. There is a colonel with a double door that you can open. Inside, you can see a small general, carefully boned and folded. Many heads share the same body, and there are bodies lined up in iron wardrobes, one behind another, like overcoats on coat-hangers.

 Gris (the French for “grey”)  is a shadowy presence throughout the book. We never “see” or “hear” him, but always learn about his activities through other characters. Thus, to him is addressed most of the testimony of the former secret agent Schlangenfeld who is interviewed by an anonymous researcher about her work for the Service. As we learn more about Gris, a Himmler-like figure emerges out of the mist with the Green Guard (a military unit under the Secret Service) being an analogue of SS. One of the subplots features  horrible crimes committed by the Green Guard in the breakaway republic of Balkaria. The atrocities are captured on film by an American journalist. The discovery of the concentration camps later on make this parallel more than justified. Schlangenfeld is in thrall of Gris’ power and intelligence. She is the perfect agent for him, ready to do anything for the reinforcement of the system of terror and control he represents. Her main duties involve intelligence collection while sleeping with the high-rank officers of the Defence Ministry. Her story overwhelms with the intricacy of the intrigue and power struggle within the state apparatus. One has to read her narration at least twice to get most of the details concerning the rivalries, alliances and treacheries proliferating under the dictatorial rule. The fact that Alessandro Y is increasingly more often substituted by his numerous doubles renders things even more complicated.

There are quite a few Borgesian tropes employed in the novel, the most conspicuous being the maze, bifurcation and doubles. For example, the palatial basement housing the grisly collection is, in a fact, a labyrinth.

It is a disconcerting geography, Manfred-Célestin. There are passages in the walls and doors that are taken for screens. One has to enter through wardrobes or freezers, to gyrate infinitely, to ascend in order to descend. The Marshal managed everything in secret, year after year, making sure that the workers and the engineers disappeared after each extension. The memory about the configuration of his labyrinth was lost, devoured by the erosion of the past and the false plans that he left lying around just for the fun of it.

The obvious allusion to another favourite subject of Borges sneaks in when the dictator proclaims “you are just inhabitants of a branching-out of possible futures that will never get realised”. But the real fun ensues when Alessandro Y, in fear of assassination launches the production of his doubles on an almost industrial scale. Scores of men more or less similar in their appearance  to the Marshal become an army of clones after ingenious cosmetic surgeries.  At a certain point everybody, except perhaps the dictator himself, is in doubt whether this particular marshal is real or fake. Moreover, since some of the doubles have a more privileged status being “original” ones, they in their turn are provided with their own doubles to substitute them during less important activities. Gradually the situation comes to such a state, that there is a double on the permanent basis ruling semi-autonomously in the presidential palace, while the original marshal is hiding in some secret residence, and the Secret Service is making efforts to hunt down some runaway doubles roaming the lands of Hyrcasia and causing quite a stir among the inhabitants. No need for a better illustration of absolute power based on fiction and simulation.

The old servant, tottering on the verge of senility, tells us about the inevitable decline of the dictator in the fourth part. Again, there is nothing new in this development: the country is torn apart by the rebels, the separatists, the troops supporting the interim government and the diminishing forces still faithful to the Marshal. The butt of the dictator’s mockery at the beginning of the novel now becomes the chronicler of his later days. That’s the ironic outcome of the long and tortuous journey undertaken by Alessandro Y in search of absolute power. Pierre Jourde does not really attempt to say anything new about dictatorship, as if it were possible anyway, and here lies the main weakness of the novel. Many episodes are fascinating; one has fun stumbling on allusions to Italo Calvino and Edgar Alan Poe, but there is a lingering sense of the superfluousness of this dictator novel project that I couldn’t get rid of. I liked the execution, but the main idea regarding the fictitious foundations of absolute power and the reliance on continuous simulation in order to sustain it left me pretty much indifferent. The attempt to summarise most of the negative aspects of dictatorship does not really justify the complex architecture of the narrative Jourde had been building for seventeen years. It had been done before with more success by Latin American writers. There could have been more than this synthetic portrayal of an ogre in power and his milieu. That being said, the novel is in many aspects extraordinary, especially with regard to its language. The range of vocabulary employed by Jourde is astounding; he is a true virtuoso when it comes to juggling different registers. I don’t remember any other French novel that I’ve read recently which would mine the French language for its riches with such creative abandon. There is no doubt that The Absolute Marshal will be enjoyed by many English-speaking readers once it gets translated.

 

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Forthcoming: Fragments of Lichtenberg by Pierre Senges

FragmentsLuckily for many, Dalkey Archive is going to publish this autumn  Fragments of Lichtenberg  (translated into English by  Gregory Flanders), the bulky encyclopedic novel about the 18th century German scientist  Georg Christoph Lichtenberg and his literary heritage. The playful premise of the novel is the belief that Lichtenberg’s aphorisms are not just disparate observations but rather snippets of an enormous roman-fleuve. Senge’s work is dedicated to the obsessive attempt by literary scholars to reconstruct the lost great novel.  A French review promises the re-writing of Ovid, Robinson Crusoe, and  Snow White as well as the appearance of Polichinelle and Goethe. The novel is a frolicsome and erudite mishmash of various genres with the indispensable marginal notes and embedded narratives. The reviewer describes it as  “un gros machin tortueux à la Joyce” (a big tortuous Joycean thingamajig). It does sound promising, doesn’t it?

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