With two 10+ hour days of flying, plus several train days sitting between parts of Paris and Italy (including one where Ken and I went on a loop between the two, continually fucking up our connections), I had a lot of time during the 12 days of traveling in Europe with which to spend with my head stuck in a book. As a result, I plowed through 4 books and the beginning of a fifth, all works in translation, including titles by Jacques Roubaud, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Eric Chevillard, Zoran Živković, and Werner Herzog.
Here are some brief thoughts on each:
The Great Fire of London by Jacques Roubaud (Dalkey Archive)
Kicked off the trip with this fat badboy from Dalkey, which carried me up to Washington DC and then through several days in Paris. It’s one of the more original premises and executions of a book I’ve seen in a while, and no surprise in that it is from a major Oulipian. Basically, the book is a book about the book itself more than a book of normal concerns. Not quite a writer writing about writing (thank god), but more a writer spooled in the blank space between such, and crushed in his weird onslaught of memory, a dream conceit of trying to compose a novel that never exists, and the crippling brainspace of having lost a wife. Not quite nonfiction, not quite not, a text about text that manages to do a lot of beautiful examinations of life, such as making jelly, and the descriptions of shapes of rooms and light, among which I was surprised at how compelling he was able to keep the compulsion alive across such a massive tome that essentially is all talk of what it is over being what it is, but then extending through that to actually become the blank. Terrifying in the most on-its-face banal of ways, and electric for its method. Felt right to read this one in Paris, which I had not even realized the connection of which (nor, I swear, did I mean to bring all French authors to France, it just happened).