French Novel of the Decade

Christophe Claro says Zone by Mathias Énard is going to be huge. Claro, of course, does know a little about postmodern writing.

Here’s some more on it:

Zone is considered by some to be the most ambitious novel to be published in France this year. Proust, Celine, Joyce and The Iliad are mentioned as the inspirations behind it. According to the editor’s description at amazon.fr the novel features such characters as Genet, Pound, Burroughs, Cervantes, Hannibal, and Napoleon.

I guess we’ll all have to wait for Chad Post to translate it.


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Zone is getting a lot of good buzz over here. But I’m wary of buzz. Laurent Gaudé’s Porte des Enfers is phenomenal so far. I’ll get to Enard soon and let you know.

I would advise caution on this title – one comment I read was as follows: ‘Pour décrire l’enfer, n’est pas Dante qui veut. Ce qui frappe, au fond, c’est la monotonie lyrique.’ I think it’s over ambitious. Much better to read his previous novel, La perfection du tir, or indeed the latest Laurent Gaude.

Zone is far from perfect, but it’s an excellent book. I have to say I can’t fathom how anyone would prefer Gaudé to Enard. To each his own, I guess.

A man in his late thirties is aboard a train from Milan to Rome with a single suitcase filled up with documents and names coming from his years long investigation into the gruesome history of conflicts of the mediterranean. 500 kilometers travel, 500 pages. During the whole trip, we are inside the man’s head. Thinking about his suitcase. Thinking about history, thinking about his own life, his years as a soldier in the croatian nationalist army in the 90’s, the war against the Serbian and the muslim Bosnian, massacres, rapes, warfare. Thinking also about is second life, in France’s intelligence service. His investigation in Algeria during the bloody 90’s, years of the rippers, his time in war-torn Lebanon. This is a list of horrors, a century of violence. The narrator’s voice is haunted, it never stops — the first dot of his own narration (save the ones found in the book he is reading) is the final one. A very striking book who’d wish to be a modern’s day Iliad — everything started in Troy.
Take a look on Zone ( in French) : http://knol.google.com/k/lyonel-baum/zone/2k8pqpdqx6p8k/27#view

There’s a certain level of craft in Gaudé’s work that I appreciate, and I don’t know Enard’s work at all– I haven’t read Le perfection du tir, nor am I very far advanced in Zone. I’m trying to get over how pretentious the project feels, but I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt. Si Claro le dit, hein? Même s’il est remercié dans les acknowledgements :)

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