Tag Archives: Terminus Radieux

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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La rentrée 2014: what to look forward to

I am reading this huge French novel with echoes of Pynchon, Borges and Augusto Roa Bastos that I hope to review for this blog in the near future. While I’m at it, let’s take a look at some of the books to be published during the coming rentrée.

Antoine Volodine returns with Terminus Radieux. The novel is a set in a dystopian Siberia devastated by radiation and inhabited for the most part by the living dead and phantom soldiers. The title refers to the name of a  kolkhoz (a Soviet collective farm) ruled by President Solovieï (the Russian for a nightingale), a man who invokes supernatural powers in search of omnipotence. In other words, 624 pages of pure madness.

Emmanuel Carrère’s Le royaume deals with the inception of Christianity in the 1st century. Among the characters figure  St. Paul and St. Luke. The novel mixes history and the author’s personal reflections.

Pascal Quignard continues his Dernier Royaume series with the ninth volume called Mourir de penser. According to the brief description available on Amazon, the novel examines three issues: 1. In which way thought and death come into contact. 2. The affinity of thought to melancholy. 3. How thought protects itself against trauma.

Jean-Hubert Gailliot had been working on Le Soleil for eight years. The novel is about a  certain Alexander Varlop’s quest to retrieve a stolen manuscript. The investigation proceeds from the Greek island of Mykonos, where the theft has taken place, to Palermo in Italy, and from there to Formentera in Spain. In the course of his inquiry, the protagonist finds out that the manuscript used to be owned by such luminaries of modernism as Ezra Pound and Man Ray as well as comes to the realization that he might be just a pawn in a game pursued by higher powers. The full description in French is available here.

These are the four novels that sound interesting to me.  If something else draws your attention, let me know.

Update 1: Emmanuel Carrère’s novel is finally available for pre-order as The Kingdom.

Update 2: Antoine Volodine’s bizarre dystopia is forthcoming as Radiant Terminus.

 

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