I very happily spotted a few Fitzcarraldo Editions’ books out in the wild this weekend. There’s something very pleasing about a publishing house with such a high hit rate (for me) that I can generally trust that anything white on blue will be of interest.
So I picked up Zone by Mathias Énard, which consists of a single sentence over it’s four-hundred-odd pages.
It has a particularly European sensibility about it — the kind of mandatory romanticised memories of attempting to bed foreign girls in a foreign city in a less than appealing hovel do crop up. But even then, the writing is magnificent.
To address the form: it is either exceptionally well edited in this translation (by Charlotte Mandell) or we’ve never really needed a full stop in literature. The way the language rolls has the natural rhythm of poetry — to have each thought connected rather than separated makes the transitional leap important and often obvious. This natural flow is even more impressive when you can, quite naturally, distinguish between connected thought and clauses within other thoughts.
Here’s a taste:
The book does cheat a little however. There are numbered sections, chapters, episodes. These make for a kind of break in the story that you would expect — and kind of goes against it being a single flowing sentence. I don’t know if this would ever be a problem for anyone, but I thought it was best to let you know that you can take a rest between introspective retrospective dwelt on against a train window.
The story itself concerns a man, an ex-secret serviceman on his way to Rome to sell something interesting to The Vatican. And the stories that roll out of this, naturally, concern war and sanguine lies in the area surrounding the mediterranean which is the titular Zone of the title.
As you can see from the excerpt, it has all the beautiful, earthy fumblings you’d expect from a novel almost exclusively about memories, and memory is nothing if not a fumble).
You will have seen this wandering around the internet this week — even a dear friend of mine who doesn’t really do reading or poetry or similar pursuits took a moment to DM it to me to say it was worth checking out.
Thanks for reading Etch To Their Own. Today it was a little early as a stole some time from my employer (myself) to write this in the cafe of Modern Art Oxford, which will host our first event — The Oxford Print Fair. If you’re in the city, please swing by, it would be great to see you irl. As always, this was written by @CJEggett in circumstances beyond his control (life). Please get in touch about typos by email or tweet. Please show this to your friends, if you think they deserve it. They can sign up here.