I just got finished reading Margarita Karapanou’s novel The Sleepwalker for a review for the Review of Contemporary Fiction.
It’s one of the most exciting things I’ve read this year. Read it.
I asked to review The Sleepwalker pretty much on the strength of the incredible praise for Karapanou in the panel that Hilary Plum arranged for The Quarterly Conversation. I’m so glad I did. The book is a little like Thomas Pynchon in its surreal realism, although it feels modernist to me in the precision and originality of the prose. It also reminds me a bit of a naive novel, as if Karapanou just decided to pick up a pen one day and started writing. It doesn’t feel overbaked or purposeful or part of any school. It’s more sui generis than anything.
Here’s what novelist Amanda Michalopoulou said about The Sleepwalker in Hilary’s panel:
I was 19 years old, a student of French literature, when I read The Sleepwalker. I realized then that books can trap you in a different kind of reality, their own, which can be slower, stranger, more important that the reality we experience. This was a revelation for me. The other revelation was that people in novels like hers talk about the important things in life without statements, they just have casual dialogs that appear normal on the page and yet are basic truths that make you feel a bit dizzy, like you had a lot of wine. This feeling has never changed. Whenever I go back to Kassandra, for instance, one of my favorite books, I meet the same surreal figure, this little girl, with her extravagant friends who talk like we talk in dreams. And then I am reassured that another reality is possible.
Here’s a review in Words Without Borders.
Here’s an interview with Karapanou’s English-language translator, Karen Emmerich, on the author.
Here’s George Fragopoulos on Karapanou.