By November 11, 2010 2 Comments Read More →

Zone, by Mathias Enard

Zone, by Mathias Enardso I have here on my desk the uncorrected proof of Zone, by Mathias Enard, which will be published December 14 by Open Letter although, really, it seems that Zone Books would have been a more appropriate publisher but anyway, the book concerns a French-born Croat intelligence officer who takes a train from Milan to Rome carrying a briefcase full of secrets that he plans to sell it’s an intriguing premise for espionage aficianados, however, they may not all take to the narrative gimmick, which is this: the entire thing is told in a single sentence (a sentence hyped as “hypnotic, propulsive, physically irresistible”) well, I read a few pages and, while I’m sure the thing might grow on me if I gave it more time, my immediate take is that the sentence is, in fact, resistible in the same way that an e-mail with no caps and no punctuation and no hard returns makes me take a deep breath before I forge on with a crucial difference being that I may need to read the e-mail for work or some other food-on-the-table reason whereas I haven’t actually been assigned Zone, and just the first page alone makes my eyes a bit buggy the real question is whether the format is an attention-drawing gimmick or whether it serves a larger purpose twentieth century fiction had a rich tradition of trying to replicate the inner voice, from James Joyce and Ulysses to John Dos Passos’s U.S.A. Trilogy to, I suppose,  Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine but do we really need such experiments at this point in our society’s evolution if the novelist’s job is to reflect society back to itself, or to try to capture life as it is lived, then is the Twitter era well served by a novel told in a single sentence that spans 517 pages (I would love a word count on that) I’m not saying it’s not, but I would certainly guess that, despite the rave quotes that adorn the accompanying material, it’s not going to make much of a dent in the psyches of the people who walk around, heads bent, thumbing their smartphones on city sidewalks and there sure are a lot of them on the other hand, like another experiment, Finnegan’s Wake, it sure will be easy to fake reading it because hardly anyone’s going to be able to call you on it frankly, the third finger of my right hand is itching to insert a period so I think I’m going to wind it up here by saying that I don’t think I’m going to read this book, at least not at present, and although they’ve translated it from French to English, they might want to consider a third version for general audiences, the way they remake foreign films for Americans, and the third version could be translated and punctuated, and then the highbrow people could talk about how they prefer the pure, uncompromised vision of the original while everybody else could just read the thing full stop

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About the Author:

Keir Graff is the editor of Booklist Online and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix.

2 Comments on "Zone, by Mathias Enard"

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  1. paradoxtheory@gmail.com' C. B. says:

    This staggeringly inept gloss of a truly exceptional book bespeaks philistinism, plain and simple.

  2. Keir says:

    You make a convincing case for your argument, C. B. Thanks for helping us understand your point of view!

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