One-Paragraph and/or One-Sentence Books: An Ongoing List

For more lists, see this page.


Over the years I’ve somewhat developed an obsession for these sorts of books. Something about the wall-to-wall big block of text (which most of these employ) and the vague stance between novel and poem (yet without really being a prose poem) just draws me in. Here’s my ongoing list of all the examples I know of. I’m sure I’ve missed plenty–please fill me in.


Zone by Mathias Enard


One of the biggest examples of the genre. I reviewed it quite favorably and interviewed the translator.


Thomas Bernhard


Perhaps the lord of this list, nearly everything he wrote applies to this category. A giant among giants, but enter at your own risk.


The She-Devil in the Mirror by Horacio Castellanos Moya


Quite appropriate that a book of his appears here, as Castellanos Moya has made no secret of his debts to Bernhard–both stylistically and disposition-wise.


Leeches by David Albahari


I don’t know much about this book other than that it fits the genre and sounds plotty. Takes place in Belgrade and involves secret societies.


Aliss at the Fire


A rare version of the genre in that though it has no periods, it actually does use paragraph breaks fairly regularly (though there are some text-blocks as well). I’m in the process of reading this one and like it so far.


Klausen by Andreas Maier


I haven’t read this one, although the book’s size reminds me of Bernhard.


Eden Eden Eden by Pierre Guyotat


I read a good chunk of this one in the bookstore. I told myself I would keep reading until the author stopped describing radically perverse sexual behavior, but, alas, he didn’t, and I had to put the book down before I became embarrassed. An apparent darling of the French intellectuals, as Roland Barthes wrote an introduction and Michel Foucault claimed it spoke things that had never been spoken before.


Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age by Bohumil Hrabal


This is a reissue of a prior translation by NYRB Classics. It sounds quite good and Hrabal was an influential author.


Broken Glass by Alain Mabanckou


A sadly failed example of our genre. The book starts out strong but cannot maintain its energy or inventiveness.


By Night in Chile by Roberto Bolano


Actually two sentences, but the second sentence is very short and this book is very, very good. Plus, it has that obsessive monologic that is characteristic of the genre.


03 by Jean-Christophe Valtat


I’m not sure anyone “got” this book except for James Wood, who gave it a good review that made me want to read it. All of the other reviews made it sound like any other French existentialist novel.


Dies: A Sentence by Vanessa Place


I know very little about this book, except that it fits the category and that some readers of this site (plus some impressive people) recommend it.


The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise by Georges Perec


I was unaware that a book of Perec’s fir this category until a reader told me so. I’m so very pleased that Perec can be placed into this company, as he certainly belongs here!


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A few off the top of my head: Beckett’s The Unnamable, Sebald’s Austerlitz, and Agape Agape by William Gaddis. All I believe are single paragraphs.

A new press in London, Peirene Press, has published F.C. Delius’ delicate and lyrical one sentence novella about a young German woman, the wife of an officer, waiting for news of her husband and the birth of their child in Rome near the end of WWII.

http://www.peirenepress.com/books/2010/peirene_no_3

Not sure if it counts completely (lines do end sometimes) but if you want to read a long book without any periods in it Frank Stanford’s The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You is a good one, there’s an excerpt here that gives some of the flavor (it’s set in the deep south in the early 60s, this is something of a digression) which gives some sense of the kind of momentum it builds up when it gets going

Also, Gabo’s Autumn of the Patriarch is divided up into chapters, but each is one solid paragraph, much like She Devil in the Mirror.

This book does not meet the criteria of consisting of one long sentence; however I would propose that it features an innovative (or, at least, intriguing) use of one long sentence that threads its way through about three-quarters of the narrative in a very effective way: Our Ecstatic Days, by Steve Erickson features a sentence, beginning on page 83, that sneaks its way out of the main narrative thread, wending its visually separate way through the remainder of the novel, reconnecting back to the regularly structured, paragraphed sections of the book only three pages before the last one, on page 315.

You ought also to be aware of Vanessa Place’s hallucinatory Dies: A Sentence (http://www.lesfigues.com/lfp/28/dies-a-sentence).

And there’s The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise by Georges Perec^^

Jean-Christophe Valtat’s 03 is one paragraph.

I’ve recently developed an interest in one-sentence novels so thanks for this list.

There was a similarly-themed article in a recent New York Times (book review section) by Ed Park, mostly focusing on Hrabal. It also gave me “The Gates of Paradise” by Jerzy Andrzejewski, which I had to ILL to get, but it was interesting enough. But Bernhard is the perfect example.

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