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Mark Blacklock - a riveting novel about truth, lies, prison and shame. It is also a profound and furious love letter to Sunderland. It is a puzzle, a hoax, a multi-voice portrait and a virtuoso assemblage of textual elements

Mark Blacklock, I'm Jack, Granta Books, 2015.                               

In this provocative novel Mark Blacklock portrays the true and complex history of John Humble, aka Wearside Jack, the Ripper Hoaxer, a timewaster and criminal, sympathetic and revolting, the man hidden by a wall of words, a fiction-spinner worthy of textual analysis. In this remarkable work, John Humble leads the reader into an allusive, elusive labyrinth of interpretations, simultaneously hoodwinking and revealing.
I'm Jack is a riveting novel about truth, lies, prison and shame. It is also a profound and furious love letter to Sunderland. It is a puzzle, a hoax, a multi-voice portrait and a virtuoso assemblage of textual elements. I'm Jack announces the arrival of a radically talented and innovative novelist.

A gripping study in self-invention - and, ultimately, self-erasure - Tom McCarthy

Here are dark telegrams from an expertly realised otherness that is Sunderland. Spare. Swift. Smart. And dangerous. Carrying us through maps of shame to rescue a convincing fiction of the past from its sullen entropy - Iain Sinclair

The varied range and wit of his polyphonic chorus are reminiscent of Joe Orton's darkly subversive correspondence pranks... [An] intelligent [and] disturbing slice of noir - Catherine Taylor

Less a novel and more an assault on the senses, I'm Jack cleverly uses inter-textual trickery and deft Mackem parlance to create a portrait of a man obsessed. It is a forensic montage, a frenzied confessional and a stark commentary on the effects of public notoriety. Moving, haunted and necessary - Benjamin Myers

Compelling, troubling, fascinating, a delight to read. It is a sublime anti-novel and a brilliantly original intervention into a most peculiar episode of recent history - James Miller

Absorbing and fascinating. Using multi-layered storytelling, a deep personal knowledge of Sunderland past, present and legend in a believable and hard-hitting blend of fact and imagination, it paints a genuinely disturbing vision of an obsessive, calculating and ultimately self-destructive personality - Bryan Talbot

A deftly executed ventriloquist act, it's anchored in the true story of notorious hoaxer John Humble... The book itself is just as slippery - Hephzibah Anderson

[An] intriguing debut... There is an air of grubby menace throughout - Ben Myers

The ageing Humble is a figure lost on the margins of society: alcoholic, in and out of gaol and lacking any real relationship... [Suggesting] that crime might be understood by looking at the particular social situations that contribute to it, Blacklock presents Humble as far from 'evil' but a melancholic echo of a wider deprivation - Jerome de Groot

By early 1978 West Yorkshire police’s ongoing investigation into the serial killer dubbed the Yorkshire Ripper had reached breaking point. Then, in March, a letter arrived at headquarters addressed to George Oldfield, the assistant chief constable heading the inquiry. Over the course of the next year and three months two more letters were sent, signed “Jack the Ripper”, and, most significantly, a tape, all purporting to be from the killer. The police changed course and focused on Sunderland, from where the communications originated.
In late June of 1979, the recording of “Wearside Jack” taunting the beleaguered Oldfield was broadcast over and over again, becoming seared into public imagination and memory. It played over the airwaves of our local radio station in Sheffield almost as nightly entertainment. From my bedroom window I would stare, transfixed, into the blackness of the garden, wondering if “he” were somewhere out there in the shadows.
South Yorkshire had not been targeted by the Ripper at that point, but on 2 January 1981 Peter Sutcliffe was caught in the lane behind my school, initially arrested for having fake number plates on his car. The young woman he had picked up from the red-light district around the corner a few minutes earlier had the luckiest escape of her life. Yet because of the concentration on Wearside Jack, the inquiry had taken a false and disastrous turn, leaving Sutcliffe, the actual killer, who had by then been interviewed nine times by police, free to murder three more women.
Oldfield was retired from the case due to ill health in late 1979 and died in 1985. One of his many tactical errors was the assertion that the killer craved publicity; his complicity in the crude hoax left his reputation in tatters. Even as Sutcliffe’s trial began, Oldfield still believed the letters and tape were linked to the murders. It was not until 2005 and random DNA testing that John Samuel Humble, a petty criminal in his late 40s from Castletown, Sunderland, was identified as Wearside Jack, charged with perverting the course of justice, and jailed for eight years.
With his first book, Mark Blacklock fits effortlessly into the lineup of accomplished literary chroniclers of the Ripper years, such as David Peace and the late Gordon Burn. In common with Burn, whose outstanding Somebody’s Husband, Somebody’s Son provided forensic biographical details and compelling psychological insights into Sutcliffe’s crimes, Blacklock has fashioned an intelligent, disturbing slice of noir, which falls into no particular category – rather like his subject. He reconstructs Humble’s preferred epistolary style to develop further the “relationship” between Wearside Jack and the now deceased police officer. Blacklock’s Humble continues to address Oldfield in a mock-affectionate, softly menacing tone, complete with all the syntactical idiosyncracies of Humble’s original missives, which set graphologists off in a tailspin.
The narrative is interspersed with police and psychological reports, creative writing exercises, letters to Humble in prison from cranks and obsessives, and an extended piece of pulp fiction. Born in Sunderland in 1974, just prior to the start of Sutcliffe’s spree, Blacklock has the area’s linguistic cadences and landmarks at his fingertips, as well as its cavernous history and quiet desperation. The varied range and wit of his polyphonic chorus are reminiscent of Joe Orton’s darkly subversive correspondence pranks. Humble, as portrayed by Blacklock, is the bored fantasist with few prospects who craves notoriety because no one listens to him down the pub. By turns apologetic, self-pitying and defiant, the man who calls himself “Jackanory” and “Jack the Giant Killer” takes on a new alias when he is freed on licence: the book ends with his application to change his name.
Should we be interested in Humble as a piece of cultural history, the 20th-century foil to his true fascination, Jack the Ripper? The women who Sutcliffe butchered so frenziedly, “the lasses” to whom Humble expresses his own careless misogyny, remain as mere ciphers. Apart from Pat Barker’s exceptional 1984 novel Blow Your House Down and Joan Smith’s ever-relevant essay “There’s Only One Yorkshire Ripper”, there has been little writing by women published on this topic. Instead, the Ripper story – to which Wearside Jack is a pathetic but powerful adjunct – has become a relentless examination of male identity, of violence most horribly, and somehow perpetually, in bloom. - Catherine Taylor

Mark Blacklock’s first novel is an audacious exercise in mimicry. Yet it is an utterly appropriate one, too: through a series of letters, witness statements and assorted official documents, Blacklock assumes the voice of one of Britain’s most notorious hoaxers, John Humble, aka “Wearside Jack”, the man who assumed the voice of the Yorkshire Ripper.
In 1979, Humble sent a tape recording to Chief Constable George Oldfield, the man leading the hunt for the serial killer who, over the previous 10 years, had murdered 10 women and assaulted several others throughout the north of England. Played at a televised press conference, the tape — a two-minute low-fi recording of Humble taunting Oldfield — had the makings of a breakthrough in the Yorkshire Ripper case: “I’m Jack. I see you are still having no luck catching me. I have the greatest respect for you, George, but Lord, you are no nearer catching me now than four years ago when I started.” Dialect specialists pinned the accent down to the Castletown area of Sunderland, in Wearside, northeast England. A wild goose chase ensued, with more than 40,000 Sunderland-born suspects interviewed.
This was a gift to the actual Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, a West Yorkshireman who was questioned nine times before his eventual arrest in 1981. He said that after hearing the tape he felt “safe” — safe enough to murder three more women as detectives looked elsewhere. The hunt plagued Oldfield. Burnt out, he suffered a heart attack. He never returned to the case, and died in 1985.
But what of Humble? Before sending the tape, the hoaxer had also sent three letters purporting to come from the Ripper, two addressed to Oldfield and one to the Daily Mirror newspaper. When West Yorkshire Police decided to review the case in 2005, DNA advances linked Humble to one of the envelopes he had licked. Detectives found him, alcoholic and unemployed, living with his brother on the Ford Estate in Sunderland. The living conditions were described as “squalid”. In 2006, Humble, then 50, received an eight-year prison sentence for perverting the course of justice; he had apparently been inspired by a library book he had borrowed (and never returned) about the Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper.
Blacklock, who also hails from Sunderland, portrays Humble as a classic unreliable narrator. Sly, yet not entirely unsympathetic, he pesters the ghost of Oldfield from his prison cell in Leeds with a batch of letters that are a compelling mess of bad grammar, rambling reveals and local dialect.
Blacklock has the voice down pat, with the same insidiously familiar tone as Humble’s tape or his original letters: “Thing is George there was a time that summer everyone was listening to my voice I was listening to my voice you couldn’t not listen to my voice it was playing everywhere wasn’t it.” A picture emerges not only of prison life, but also of the lonely, thwarted existence that led to it.
Fleshing the story out further are the numerous official documents interspersed among Humble’s one-way dispatches: police transcripts, housing association letters, graphology reports, newspaper cuttings. Some are taken straight from real-life sources, although not necessarily relating to Humble; others have been written by Blacklock. All of them, though, are orderly, businesslike and serious, unlike Humble’s wayward outpourings. The contrast — a hierarchy of tone, style and content — magnifies Humble’s lonely position on the bottom rung of society’s ladder.
Then there are other more obviously fictional pieces: poems, two stream-of-consciousness monologues from a younger Humble and a lurid horror story titled “Yours Sincerely, Jack the Ripper”, purportedly written by Robert Blake. This, presumably, is a variation on Robert Psycho Bloch’s 1943 story “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper”. Blacklock deftly captures the trashy popular mythologising of the original Ripper murders; his yarn tellingly ends with the words “I’m Jack” — a pulp-fiction endorsement for Humble the fantasist.
I’m Jack doesn’t have the intensity of Gordon Burn’s immersive 1984 take on the life of Peter Sutcliffe, Somebody’s Husband, Somebody’s Son, or of David Peace’s Red Riding quartet, which have the Yorkshire Ripper investigation as their background. Its tone is more mischievous, with a vein of dark, crafty humour — though the overall effect is sombre. Blacklock’s Humble is impossible to like; yet by the end it is almost impossible not to feel sorry for him. - Austin Collings


The 3D Additivist Cookbook

The 3D Additivist Cookbook

The 3D Additivist Cookbook, devised and edited with Morehshin Allahyari, is a project three years in the making. A compendium of imaginative, provocative works from over 100 world-leading artists, activists and theorists. Inspired, in part, by William Powell’s Anarchist Cookbook (1969), The 3D Additivist Cookbook contains 3D .obj and .stl files, critical texts, templates, recipes, (im)practical designs and methodologies for living in this most contradictory of times.

3D Additivist Cookbook contributors include… Nora Al-Badri, Morehshin Allahyari, Kayla Anderson, Nadav Assor, Lishan Amde, Dom Barra, Andrew Blanton, Body and Swine, Marija Bozinovska Jones, Tom Burtonwood, Bryan Cera, Symrin Chawla, Simon Clark, Christopher Coleman, Katy Connor, Luigi Console, Heather Davis, Julien Deswaef, Laura Devendorf, Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Debbie Ding, Cathrine Disney, Ami Drach, Antonio Esparza, Behnaz Farahi, Jason Ferguson, Matthew Plummer Fernandez, Vilem Flusser, Dov Ganchrow, Urs Gaudenz, Carl Gent, Mandi Goodier, Anna Greenspan, Ben Grosser, GynePunk, Keeley Haftner, Ryan Hammond, Julian Hanna, Claudia Hart, Norman Hogg, Joey Holder, Matthew Hollings, Sophie Hoyle, Sha Hwang, Amy Ireland, The Speculative Prototyping Lab, University of California, Irvine (special thanks to Jesse Jackson), Geraldine Juárez, Kanyaphorn Kaewprasert, Sophie Kahn, Samy Kamkar, Michelle Kasprzak, Katie Kaulbach, Scott Kildall, Corinna Kirsch, Danica Korošec, Kuang-Yi Ku, Darlene Labar, Tom Lauerman, Mark Leckey, Golan Levin, Patrick Lichty, Suzanne Livingston, Cat Mazza, Emma McCormick-Goodhart, Kyle McDonald, Shane Mecklenburger, Jasper Meiners, Rosa Menkman, Gabriel Menotti, Nano Entity Collective, Shushana Tesfuzigta, Jan Nikolai Nelles, Henrik Nieratschker, Nicholas O’Brien, Nora O’Murchú, Isabel Paehr, Vimal Patel, Everardo Reyes-Garcia, Zach Rispoli, Patrick Romeo, Adam Rothstein, Daniel Rourke, Dorothy Santos, Gaia Scagnetti, Dylan Schenker, Catherine Scott, Leo Selvaggio, Léo Sexer, Fahmy Shahin, Hua Shu, Germán Sierra, Shawn Sims, Paul Soulellis, Daniel Temkin, Ben Valentine, Elia Vargas, Alan Warburton, Timothy Weaver, Patrick Whitmarsh, Woelab-Lomé (special thanks to Sename Koffi Agbodjinou), Belen Zahera, Alison Bennett (with Mark Payne, Jacki Hammer and Megan Beckwith), ARTEKLAB (Jaime de los Ríos, Daniel Tirado, Enrique Sancho and Saul, Ibon Gurrutxaga), (Tina Zidanšek, Maja Petek, Urška Skaza and Simon Tržan) Browntourage (Tonia Beglari, Hawa Arsala) with Sofía Córdova, Biayna Bogosian and Emilia Yang, A Parede (Pedro Oliveira, Luiza Prado) with Fannie Sosa, Lucas Odahara and Tabita Rezaire
The 3D Additivist Cookbook was designed with The Laboratory of Manuel Bürger (Manuel Bürger, Simon Schindele and Alexander Papoli), and will be published by The Institute of Network Cultures (Amsterdam) as a 3D PDF and print-on-demand publication. The Cookbook was produced as part of transmediale 2016’s Vilém Flusser Residency Programme for Artistic Research with support from the Ernst Schering Foundation (Berlin) (transmediale is a project of Kulturprojekte Berlin GmbH in cooperation with the Haus der Kulturen der Welt funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation). The #Additivism project was also realised with the support of Autodesk/Pier 9 (San Francisco), Colab at the Auckland University of Technology, Emergent Digital Practices program at the University of Denver, Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University + VIA Festival (Pittsburgh), Jeu de Paume + (Paris). With editorial supporter support from Rita Macedo, Shane O’Shea and Miriam Rasch.

Alberto Chimal - a prodigy of the imagination, a fascinating reading experience which, if there is any justice, will become one of the first classics of Latin-American literature of this century

Image result for Alberto Chimal, La torre y el jardín
Alberto Chimal, La torre y el jardín [The Tower and the Garden]

There have been a few novels that I have read during my life where, not only do I enjoy the novel and/or think that it is a great novel but where I realise that it is a totally original novel. Examples would include Ulyssses, Gravity’s Rainbow and Cien Años de Soledad (One Hundred Years Of Solitude), though there are others. There have not been too many recently, though one example would be César Aira‘s La guerra de los gimnasios [The War of the Gymnasia] (not yet translated into English. Now here is another Spanish-language novel, not yet translated into English, that falls into this category. This does not necessarily mean that is great or even that I particularly enjoyed it but there is no doubt that it is original. Manuel Barroso said it was the best work published by a Mexican author in 2012 and probably in the century. The Bolivian writer, Edmundo Paz Soldán, said that it es un prodigio de la imaginación, una fascinante experiencia de lectura que, si hay justicia, debería convertirse en uno de los primeros clásicos de la literatura latinoamericana de este siglo [is a prodigy of the imagination, a fascinating reading experience which, if there is any justice, will become one of the first classics of Latin-American literature of this century]. The author David Miklos said that it has no equal in our literature. Latin American critics have been full of praise for this work. As far as I am aware there are no plans to publish this work in English, though I hope I am wrong.
As I said, this is a thoroughly original work but it is not always an easy read. It is set in the (fictitious) town of Morosa, presumably based, at least in part, on Mexico City (Morosa can be the feminine of moroso meaning slow or sluggish but, as a noun, it means someone who does not pay their debts, a defaulter.) Most of the action takes place in the Brincadero, a building that is, from the outside, seven storeys high but, on the inside, is much bigger. Like the house in The House of Leaves or Dr Who’s Tardis (Chimal is a science fiction fan), the Brincadero is much larger inside. Indeed, the lemmings alone take up twelve floors. It also changes its appearance – rooms come and go, for example – and has the ability to repair itself when damaged. The Brincadero has one main function. It is a brothel but not a brothel in the conventional sense but a brothel where the rich from all over the world come and have sex with animals. By animals, this means from fleas and ants (certain ants can be used to titillate certain parts of the anatomy, for example) to tigers, via the lemmings mentioned above and a range of exotic and unusual animals. Fortunately, Chimal gives us little description of what the rich actually do with the animals, apart from the obvious, though we learn that the animals are dressed up and that both animals and human customers can and do get hurt and killed. Fortunately, there is a hospital on site. There is also an on-site taxidermist, so that clients can have their animals stuffed after they have disposed of them.... read more here at


Translated By - Each of the authors invent or interpret place. Mundane, marginal, infamous, impossible. Together, the texts create a strange and beautiful territory that traverses distance and time

Image result for Translated By,  Charles Arsene-Henry,
Translated By, Charles Arsène-Henry, Shumon Basar eds., Bedford Press, 2011.         


Translated By accompanies the exhibition at the Architectural Association, which gathers eleven literary writers and eleven literary-places and subjects these to an act of immaterial translation: via the voice. The stories run through Ramallah, recollect turn of the century Sofia, remember the space-ship looking-Sheraton Hotel in Doha, wander through the 'Metaverse' and end at the end of the world in West Vancouver. Each of the authors invent or interpret place. Mundane, marginal, infamous, impossible. Together, the texts create a strange and beautiful territory that traverses distance and time. Includes essays by Charles Arsene-Henry and Shumon Basar.Pages are stick together deliberately so that the readers can make the book unique to themselves."

Douglas Coupland, Rana Dasgupta, Hu Fang, Julien Gracq, Jonathan Letham, Tom McCarthy, Guy Mannes Abbott, Sophia Al Maria, Hisham Matar, Adania Shibli, Neal Stephenson

The walls of latest exhibition at London's Architectural Association gallery are painted a muted grey. There are 11 large-ish white numbers placed carefully around the room and small postcards next to the numbers. There seem to be various kinds of chairs or seats everywhere. But, as someone hands over the props of the standard exhibition audio tour, a heavy-duty pair of headphones and what looks like an audio guide, it becomes clear that the exhibition doesn't take place in this room. It is not a visual experience at all.

The show is a kind of audio mix-tape of fictional and real places written by eleven international authors, including Douglas Coupland, Rana Dasgupta, Hu Fang, Julien Gracq, Tom McCarthy, Guy Mannes Abbott, Sophia Al Maria, Hisham Matar and Neal Stephenson. These vivid short stories or extracts are spoken by actors and last around ten minutes, variously traversing landscapes from Ramallah to turn-of-the-century Sofia, a cold, dead Vancouver to a dusty checkpoint in Palestine. Each of the authors sent a small picture postcard – a trigger image – which holds the listeners' attention.

The exhibition doesn't happen in the room or on the seats – it takes place between the spongy cushion of the headphone and the visitor's ear. Next to the bar at London's Architectural Association, the show's curators Shumon Basar and Charles Arsène Henry discuss the concepts and processes that went into making a show, without a show.
In the AA gallery, eleven writers led visitors to as many places on a literary journey through space and time – from the Doha desert to early 1970s’ Brooklyn.
In the AA gallery, eleven writers led visitors to as many places on a literary journey through space and time – from the Doha desert to early 1970s’ Brooklyn.
Beatrice Galilee: Tell me about the evolution of this show – why did you decide to make an exhibition of contemporary fictions, and why did you choose audio as the medium?
Shumon Basar: There's two parts to the answer: one is the content and one is the form. The content is about the relationship between writing and reading, and then writing and place, and place and voice. The form is an audio guide – I think they have become one of the most pernicious aspects of contemporary museum experiences. At the same time they embody everything about both the collectivisation and the erasure of individual interpretation with respect to art. We were interested in how we might use a device that everyone is familiar with in a way that illuminates and opens up what you see rather than close it down.
Charles Arsène Henry: Yes, it came from two different sets of desires that met in the object of the audio guide. The other side comes from the actual act of reading and what it implies. What fiction can do that only fiction does. Fiction can set up infinite communication between two consciousnesses from the inside.

Can you explain the strategy and process? How did you decide the authors? Did you give them a brief?
SB: Once we had decided it would be audio-based it became a mix-tape of 10 or 11 tracks, which gave us straightforward, quantative parameters. We then started to discuss which writers that we knew that had written about places – either real places or invented places. The title of the show, "Translated By," is what successful writers achieve – they're translated into other languages. But someone like Walter Benjamin would say the act of reading is almost like the act of translation. In a very Tom McCarthy way, all text is like a code, which has to be coded and decoded. We're interested in how writers translate something which is about place. All but one text already existed, so in that sense we both worked as editors. The show bears some similarities to the notion of an anthology, but an anthology where we're trying to construct a strange map that consists of these texts. For us it wasn't incredibly important that the texts were commissioned. By virtue of excising them and putting them next to other texts, they become new texts. We were interested in producing an exhibition that wasn't exhaustive and that didn't emerge from the domain of images. I mean, what are images? They're neural impressions in your mind. So the image that you conjure up in your head when you're dreaming or someone is talking is as real an image as the one you see.

There are a lot of assumptions people can't get rid of when they enter a gallery – they imagine that everything they see they can't touch, everything is an exhibit to be observed. In my experience it takes a lot to ask visitors to cross that threshold, to break that barrier. How have people responded since the opening? Are they open to following new rules?
SB: That's why our lovely invigilators downstairs are actually a key part of the process. They have to immediately let people know there is no exhibition without the audio. If you go back to the status of a museum audio-guide, the convention is that it's a supplement to the art. You can choose whether or not to have it. The difference here is that we're inverting it. It's not secondary, it's primary.
CAH: There is something else that we could not have planned, which is that the show only happens when it is activated. There is no show without visitors. I entered the space three days ago and there were 10 teenagers and it was silent. You just see them wearing the headphones. The mental image: that's when the show happens.

After the exhibition closes, the audio is switched off and the texts will be bound in a book. As part of the process you're also planning to have some conversations about fiction and reading with some 18–19 year olds – what are you hoping to get out of that?
SB: We wanted to do something that explored how modes of reading have shifted, are shifting and will shift, partly through technological developments. We realise that there's a lot of discourse on this subject, but generally it's all written by people above a certain generational threshold for whom print was their primary mode of engagement with text. And whilst that's fine, it's very different talking theoretically about how things are changing to experiencing it as a generation for whom the distinction between print and digital, page and screen, are not moral ethical or ontological divisions but part of a continuous plateau. There are invisible battle lines drawn – as if there's antipathy and antagonism between print and digital but they just don't exist for the subsequent generations. We then decided that we should speak to young people for whom the internet wasn't something they had to adjust to, it was simply there. Now that an 18-month-old child can play with the iPad, it seems really important to hear from young people about their relationship to writing and reading. We're keeping an open mind about it. It's possible we will proven wrong.
CAH: Yes, for example, the way that 18-19 year olds obsessively collect vinyl. It's reaction and counter reaction. There are different reactions depending on the generation. I have been writing on a typewriter for six or seven months. Perhaps we have a consciousness of what a typewriter is – it's an old thing. But, for the younger generation it's alien. And you have much more desire for something alien than for something old.
An accompanying paperback, published by Bedford Press and designed by Z.A.K., will include all the stories as well as essays by the curators. It will be launched during an event that speculates about the future(s) of writing, reading, listening and fiction.
An accompanying paperback, published by Bedford Press and designed by Z.A.K., will include all the stories as well as essays by the curators. It will be launched during an event that speculates about the future(s) of writing, reading, listening and fiction.


Misha Pam Dick - Büchner flees 19th century Germany, juggling Spinoza and Descartes and churning out a few plays and a novella; Dick paces around 21st century New York City, thinking through Büchner in the context of our surveillance state governing the ‘white-supremacist-capitalist patriarchy’

Misha Pam Dick, this is the fugitive, Essay Press, 2016.

this is the fugitive is an essay in the form of a prose poem, an assay with the content of a reflection, an essey that is driven out but bending back. Through the lenses of Georg Büchner’s life and works (Woyzeck, Danton’s Death, etc.), it contemplates socio-political oppression and rebellion, government surveillance, violence (particularly against women and girls) and alienation. Pronouns rove among personas, including Büchner’s female characters and his fiancée Wilhelmine Jaeglé, in a triple exposure of childhood, teenhood and adulthood. The book’s girlish straying is an ethical and spiritual wrestling—an exploration of transience and transcendence, flight and fluid identities, melancholy and freedom. While staying vulnerable to the present, THIS IS THE FUGITIVE strives for a fugitive poetics as a form of translit.

“Never have the trickster tendencies of Misha Pam Dick (aka Gregoire Pam Dick, Mina Pam Dick, et al.) been so brutally, arrestingly wielded as in this brilliant and sometimes hilarious essay (assay) that ≠ anything I’ve read before. ‘Intertextual avant la lettre’—recalling failure-courters from Kierkegaard to Markson while channeling Woyzeck—this is the fugitive traffics in the trans-lation and trans-substantiation of the introvert’s anxiety (‘neutrality is evil’; ‘I am dead and wish simply to be left alone in my caving-in’) contra the onslaught of (especially gender-based) violence past and present, fictive and real. We may have escaped the twentieth century and the centuries it fled, but, as for any fugitive, history remains like a haunting: here with appearances by ‘chelsee manning,’ the ‘egyptian’ military, tongue-kissing, multiple ‘karls,’ and a thoroughly, productively unstable ‘I.'” —Anna Moschovakis

Misha Pam Dick’s this is the fugitive reads like a transcript of thought-parts that have been spit out above Georg Büchner’s cranium as Misha — or “minna, misha, minka, mia, myrna, mikaela” — straddles Büchner’s shoulders. Both of them hurry through their respective subway cars of time: Büchner flees 19th century Germany, juggling Spinoza and Descartes and churning out a few plays and a novella; Dick paces around 21st century New York City, thinking through Büchner in the context of our surveillance state governing the ‘white-supremacist-capitalist patriarchy’ (to borrow a bell hooks coin).
I should back up. this is the fugitive is sort of about Georg Büchner, who was a 19th century German dramatist and writer. In 1834, Büchner wrote the The Hessian Courier, a pamphlet against the ruling classes that called for “war on the palaces,” after which he was charged with treason and fled to France as a fugitive. In 1835, he wrote the Danton’s Death — a play about the French Revolution — and “Lenz,” an unfinished novella that’s often considered a precursor to European modernism. In 1836, he wrote a satirical comedy of errors, Leonce and Lena. In 1837, he wrote Woyzeck — a tragedy about a poor soldier who loses his mind and jealously kills his wife — which is one of the most performed German plays and has been adapted countless times. That same year, Büchner died from typhus at age twenty-three.
Broadly, this is the fugitive uses Büchner’s life and work as a model for intellectual and revolutionary engagement. Questions that float below this book’s surface:
  • How can we learn from Büchner’s actions and attitudes toward the power structures of his day and apply them to analogous contemporary structures?
  • What, in Büchner, is still relevant politically, dramatically, philosophically, and personally?
  • How does Büchner’s status as a fugitive inform our contemporary discourse (e.g., both literally with Snowden and more figuratively)?
  • What about the speaker’s personal situation and attitudes create friction when Büchner’s on her shoulders?
Dick’s mode of pursuing these questions, though, is hardly that of a five-paragraph essay. The book has eleven sections marked off by slashes, with each section looking mostly like a series of tweets — line after line of un-capitalized, haphazardly punctuated text:
i like to look but i don’t like to till . . . .
radical revolutionary passivity?
i like to look, not to sow, raise hopes
but tiller is also from twig or shoot
like you could shoot yourself, like a girl or a man, perhaps a papa
or a page
or how georg talked of hanging himself
Büchner is the tiller in this passage, with The Hessian Courier. The speaker, while on board with the cause, is not an agitator, and wonders whether “radical revolutionary passivity” may be viable. That question feels almost incidental here, though, for it is the wordplay with till and shoot that drive the passage’s movement.
While till initially possesses active and generative connotations, tiller’s etymological roots with a motionless twig lend the word passivity; however, shoot grows out of that meaning into its fatal verb-form. Because shoot destroys the self here, and slides into Büchner talking about “hanging himself,” the speaker imbues shoot (and so tiller, and so till) with an active passivity. Through a linguistic slipperiness, the speaker reconciles the initial friction between her and Büchner’s revolutionary impulses.
Punnery propels this book throughout, and four pages later, twig and shoot pop up again:
it’s a twig, like that model twiggy
scrawny but always trying to be thinner
like a theory of truth or meaning
or a model for an interpretation or a sentence
a shoot of a girl (p. 13)
The wordplay of twig, shoot, and model associates how intellectual thought privileges elegance (i.e., brevity, thinness) with how fashion and society privileges hyper-thin women. Additionally, because these words echo their first appearance in the book, “a shoot of a girl” suggests not just a photoshoot, but gun violence, an immature part of plant, and passivity. This echo adds nuance to my understanding of the text, but also defers any conclusive understanding. The path to comprehending this book is not a thorny labyrinth that eventually leads to one, glowing minotaur of “Eureka!” It is not a path at all: I plod over something like Monet’s water lilies, and each step sinks the hazy lilies into the pond. I am left with almost-impressions.
There are so many other almost-impression gems. There is Heraclitus teaming up with Pussy Riot:
assay riots!
her, a clit, us!
There are typos doing drugs:
heavy myth or meth user
versus a teen girl on speed
or to write a discourse on meth versus to be a meth actor
There are typos causing sickness — “i was falling ill with meaningitus!” — and there are typos causing death: “my feast day is a fib, in feb. georg fell ill with typhus and soon enough he died. from typos.” There is even Edward Snowden’s name dispersed into a wintry hideout:
in the russian airport, edouard played the piano while it snowed outside
snow is crucial in the writing of robert, sometimes of georg
snow is crucial in my writing, as in snow is white is true and snow white from the other book when it was girlish, playful . . . .
neither the girl nor the philosophy is ever pure as snow
and a prison cell is not a den. as for an animal
or it is. but a lair, a hideout (a robber’s den), a place like a hideout or a center of secret activity (opium of the masses den, den of iniquity or of quitting), a cozy private little room like the mind in the skull, behind its walls
I love how the Snowden pun casts a trampoline underneath the whole passage, on which the other references and ideas bounce, are independent for a moment, then bounce again. Snow bounces from precipitation outside a fantastical fugitive Edouard Wilhelm Eugen Reuss pianist, to a theme in Robert Walser’s work (who riffed off Snow White, who died in the snow), to a theme in Büchner’s work, to a theme in Dick’s work, to Snow White, to an emblem of purity — which “neither the girl nor the philosophy” can ever approach.
Dick’s use of snow reflects a larger tension between the discursive and the material. Snow refers to everything but actual snow in the real world. Dick refers to how other writers use snow, refers to a symbolic meaning of snow, and puns off Snowden’s name. Puns emphasize language’s own material by using the sounds and letters of words to suggest meanings. And because the whole book is dominated by this use of language, every word’s meaning most forcefully attends to its own situation in the book, rather than what the word might typically refer to in the physical world. In this regard, this is the fugitive is deliberately irresponsible with language’s duty to the real.
Often, this indulgence in the slipperiness of signifiers reeks of literary masturbation, but in this is the fugitive, bodily death, violence, or trauma are never far from Dick’s linguistic maneuvers. On one level, the book is littered with grim wordplay: “a shoot of a girl,” “meaningitus,” death from “typos,” or “trayver martyr, who was followed, provoked and shot to the death because he was a black boy in a hoodie.” On another level, Dick’s contemporary references center state violence against its people, especially women, trans people, and people of color: the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, sex trafficking, Trayvon Martin, Chelsea Manning, Pussy Riot, and Malala Yousafzai, to name a few. On a broader level, Büchner’s life models an extreme material consequence to making and distributing language: that of a fugitive.
This tension between Dick’s insouciant and slippery language and the brutal material world reveals a negotiation of identity and its body. What does selfhood sound like when its voice is free and capacious but its body is oppressed and constrained? Not simply alienated or fragmented, the self here is dispersed. In the way Snowden oscillates below the surface of the above passage, this speaker’s self oscillates in a sort of sine wave between Büchner and Misha. What unifies the book is the voice — characterized by its torrent of punnery — which throws itself against Büchner and Misha to make identity. The voice gets its energy from two competing longings: 1) to revolt against this world’s oppression of the body and 2) to return itself to the body and its sensuality. In a remarkable passage toward the end of the book, in which Büchner’s own words alternate with Dick’s, this sine wave is beautifully suggested:
i had to cry
i have to cry
that was the crack in my being
that was when it broke
when the perpetual yearning and grasping, the fire was temporarily extinguished
and the torrent
then ever after, this terrible relentless alternation
how it’s a wave function, rushing stream of desire, bliss, then of anger, sorrow
The book’s relentless playfulness obscured these longings from me until its last section, which clarifies the book’s project throughout. Read it once for an almost-impression of bliss; read it twice for sorrow kissed with ecstasy. - Connor McNamara Stratton 

Misha Pam Dick (aka Gregoire Pam Dick, Mina Pam Dick et al.) is the author of METAPHYSICAL LICKS and DELINQUENT. With Oana Avasilichioaei, she is the co-translator of Suzanne Leblanc’s THE THOUGHT HOUSE OF PHILIPPA. Also an artist, Dick lives in New York City, where she is currently doing work that runs away with Wedekind, Walser and Michaux.

The Filatory - re-creating the impulse of secret societies in an age of instant exposure to all kinds of thought. A pandemonic response to the apollonian data-networks. Swarm-written by a legion of damned souls crawling their way through Negarestanian worm-holes to gather in a global conspiracy for committing a multitude of sins

The Filatory: Compendium I.  gnOme. 2016.

This collection marks new experimental domains for The Filatory, an unidentified circle that operates with the intent of concealment: re-creating the impulse of secret societies in an age of instant exposure to all kinds of thought. The specific offering found here is a joint effort of several international factions, textual fragments that are both offered in original English and translated into such. The Filatory: Compendium I generates ideas that displace expression, taking on a life and clearing a space of their own.

CONTENTS: Strands. Book I: Secrecy, Suspicion, The Writing of the Haunt, Architectonics, Counter-Prayer, Collection, Artificiality.
Book II: Smoothness, Bones, Laceration, Threading, Layers, Emblems, Apparatus, Saturation, Residue, Slippage, Estrangement, Pockets, Gestures, Distractions, Dreams, The Call.

“This Compendium is a pandemonic response to the apollonian data-networks. Swarm-written by a legion of damned souls crawling their way through Negarestanian worm-holes to gather in a global conspiracy for committing a multitude of sins, The Filatory Compendium will kindle an ambivalent worldwide revolution of darkness, despair and joy. Inspired by the ancient arts of commentary, collection and murmuring, the writings weaved by this secret society are directed to those few ‘endangering individuals’ onto whose bodies ‘the effects of secrecy are inscribed’ —so they can act as non-ingenuous transmitters of the deepest vibrational pleasures of sin. ‘The secret reveals much more than it conceals at times,’ whispers the acephalous, multi-tendriled beast. The gates of Hell have been ajar for a while, and the old sinners of wisdom—the ones who once witnessed Dante passing by— are walking among us in disguise. Weaponize si(g)ns. The thread is out there . . .” — Germán Sierra


David Clerson - an original, phantasmagoric piece of fiction that is steeped in myth and fable. In a world of “gruesome, gargantuan creatures, two-headed fish, turtles with shells as big as islands, whales with mouths so large they could consume entire cities,” two brothers set out to find their dog of a father

QCFINF16 - CoverBrothers_v9
David Clerson, Brothers, Trans. by Katia Grubisic, Baraka Books, 2016.

David Clerson’s first novel won the Grand prix littéraire Archambault 2014. It is an original piece of fiction, steeped in myth and fable, a reflection of our own familiar surroundings in a distorting mirror. This world of “monstrous creatures, bigger than anything they could imagine, two-headed fish, turtles with shells as huge as islands, whales with mouths big enough to swallow up whole cities” is seen through the eyes of two brothers, the elder brother missing an arm, the younger fashioned by his mother from that arm.

“A surprising blend of fairy tale and adventure story, Brothers is a violent epic that feels like an ancient legend. A remarkable first novel, anchored in the traditions of another age and carried along by modern language.” —Lettres québécoises

"Katia Grubisic’s translation of the text offers flowing, unadorned prose that sings with the depth and simplicity of the story. Clerson’s narrative charms lead us wilfully to unknown and unthinkable places. In the end, the reader is left with a single feather of hope, and the knowledge that beautiful monsters lurk at the fringes of CanLit." —Dean Garlick

“Katia Grubisic’s translation of the text offers flowing, unadorned prose that sings with the depth and simplicity of the story. Clerson’s narrative charms lead us wilfully to unknown and unthinkable places. In the end, the reader is left with a single feather of hope, and the knowledge that beautiful monsters lurk at the fringes of CanLit.” - Montreal Review of Books

“David Clerson is a master of the finely chiselled sentence and the disturbing world of the imagination.” - Dominic Tardif

“Of a violence and beauty all its own, Clerson’s mythical prose is a genuine literary revelation.” - Jérémy Laniel

“In barely 140 pages, Clerson manages to weave a tale of almost biblical dimensions.” - Daniel Grenier

“A first novel that is clever and risk-taking in equal measure.” (Les Libraires magazine)
David Clerson’s Brothers is an original, phantasmagoric piece of fiction that is steeped in myth and fable. In a world of “gruesome, gargantuan creatures, two-headed fish, turtles with shells as big as islands, whales with mouths so large they could consume entire cities,” two brothers set out to find their dog of a father. The elder brother is missing an arm, while his younger brother has been fashioned by his mother from that arm. Excess and adventure abound as fresh, original writing draws us in to “surreal, hostile worlds.” We meet the leech-boys, a wooden puppet the brothers drag from the sea to become a member of the family, six pig-children, and more, all conveyed in a tone that lies somewhere between delirium and a disturbing dream.

QC Fiction is set to release another translation of a Quebec novel (in November 2016) entitled Brothers by David Clerson. This novel (under its French title Frères) won the Grand prix littéraire Archambault 2014. The other two QC Fiction novels, Life in the Court of Matane and The Unknown Huntsman were exceptional in their content, very diverse and humorous in an off-beat way. Brothers is certainly no exception. Yet, providing a brief outline as to what the story is about is like describing colours to the blind or music to the deaf. Or rhyming “orange.”
Myth or Dreamworld?
The time and place is unknown. In fact, this could be all a dream, or an oral narrative, handed down from generation to generation and often that seems to work best in coping with the narrative.
So, in a nutshell: there are two brothers, both unnamed except for the appellations “older brother” and “younger brother.”The older brother has no left arm. His mother told him she chopped it off the day he was born so she could fashion it into a brother for him. This younger brother is ‘whole’ but his arms are too short for his body. (Sounds like phocomelia like that caused by thalidomide usage).
Are you with me so far? Good.
The two brothers live with their elderly, sight-impaired and senile mother who raises goats for food and keeps a small garden. They live close to the ocean, which is portrayed as a dwelling place of all types of creatures, loathsome leviathans and other nightmarish beasts. The ocean is always black, always washing up things animate and inanimate for the brothers to play with or sell in the village. Eventually, they repair an old boat and venture on an odyssey in search of their “dog of a father” who- yes- really is a dog. And a giant one at that.
Still with me?
Author David Clerson has cleverly constructed a story that could have been told hundreds of years ago by peoples living near the ocean. Similarly, there is no easy way to pigeon hole the time or place of the narrative, let alone the genre that Brothers could be filed under. There are moments of sheer horror, not of the demonic or spiritistic type, but that of vivid, untenable situations and eerie experiences. This is especially so when the older brother experiences life as a dog, eventually seeking vengeance on the family that abused him and the bitch he loved:
He woke ready to paint the world the shade of nightmares.
One cannot really sum up the entire story in a paragraph or two. Brothers is a book that has to be read, or rather, experienced. When I first started reading it, I was fairly reminded of the H.P. Lovecraft novel The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, for Brothers appeared dreamlike to me; Lovecraft’s novel was the only touchstone I had to interpret what I was reading and assessing the imagery appearing in my mind. Certainly, dreams figure prominently in the brother’s lives (it is in a dream we are introduced to the dog of a father), and often I wasn’t convinced that the story wasn’t simply a dream that the older brother was having. Or was it reality? Did the younger brother ever exist? Was their father really a dog? Clerson’s striking heroic story is there for the interpretation. Brothers would make for a very stimulating and lively book club discussion. -

brothers excerpt


Emmanuelle Pagano - In this fiction of yous and mes, of hims and hers, Pagano choreographs the objects, gestures, places, and persons through which love is made real


Emmanuelle Pagano, Trysting, Trans. by Jennifer Higgins and Sophie Lewis, And Other Stories & Two Lines Press, 2016.

Third up for 2016 is the remarkable Trysting by Emmanuelle Pagano, translated by Jennifer Higgins and Sophie Lewis, which we’re describing as Edouard Levé meets Marguerite Duras. In over 100 fragments, author Emmanuelle Pagano recounts a shocking range of romantic incidents that reveal the wide-ranging, remarkable—and utterly strange—forms that love can take. A book that shows you that each and every love is unique, but also resembles all the others.

Grains of sand, bridges, shampoo, a bike, board games, yoga, sellotape, birds, balloons, tattoos, wandering hands, tweezers, maths, fish, letterboxes, puppets, a vacuum cleaner, a ball of string – and love.
In this fiction of yous and mes, of hims and hers, Pagano choreographs the objects, gestures, places, and persons through which love is made real.

Trysting is a mirror shattered in play: inscribed on each bright shard of glass, a fable about a fragment of love.’ - Joanna Walsh

‘Polyphonic, arboreal, rhizomatic, desperate, stunning.’ - Lauren Elkin

‘The interactions of men and women, infinitely varied and minutely scrutinised, are Emmanuelle Pagano’s central concern here. No oddity or anomaly of behaviour is too slight to escape her notice, but the effect is less forensic than boundlessly compassionate and wise. She is a prose poet worthy to stand with the great exponents of the genre.’ - Christopher Reid

‘A bold, experimental book of cohering fragments, full of intimately-spoken truths about desire, about love, and about their aftermaths. It is like having strangers whisper their secrets into our minds.’ P- atrick McGuinness

‘Subtle and moving, the fragments of life presented in Trysting question the relationships between love, sex and gender, making the everyday strange and the strange everyday’ Juliet Jacques

‘Trysting is an album of destinies. They each have their décor. They talk of first frosts, of the wood that must be brought in, of the huge rubbish tips of life, of the disorder of houses. Of beds that are no longer made because they are too often occupied. Of the warmth of being at home and of finding oneself. This essential truth of what we are. Emmanuelle Pagano sends every reader back to familiar territory. Her book is full of discreet and recognisable emotion.’ - Xavier Houssin

‘Understated and devilishly talented, Pagano follows her amorous quest, made up of stand-out sketches, scathing little stories, confessions and analyses, all shared between voices.’ - Thierry Clermont

‘Trysting reveals what only literature can: the basic irrationality, the arbitrary enchantment, but also the residual grace within the feeling of love. A multitude of anonymous male and female characters show us the ways we are seduced by each other: a scent, a movement, a way of being, a way of making love.’ - Alexandre Gefen

‘Though she insists on brevity, Pagano never abandons complexity and holds fast to the animal sensuality that forms the bedrock of every couple’s relationship.’ - Clementine Goldszal

‘Familiar but never banal. Without a trace of performance, full of shared confidences, it has an incredible delicacy.’ - Olivia de Lamberterie

A series of tender little love bites, running the length and depth of all connotations and permutations that the word “love” contains.
Pagano’s English-translation debut collects, in a torrent of brief vignettes, many lifetimes' worth of heartbreaks, secret moments, reminiscences, betrayals, fantasies, voyeurisms, and disappointments, all deftly translated in Higgins and Lewis' full and limber prose. Following in the epigrammatic path laid by Félix Fénéon's Novels in Three Lines, this book is hardly less varied for casting its gaze on a single, messy corner of our experiential universe. In this way, it conjures the spirit of Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, dealing in life’s ardent undertows, which, in some form or degree, are nearly as inescapable a part of the human experience as the ends that befell the residents of Masters’ “The Hill.” Pagano delights and surprises with uncanny observations, each sounding a small point of emotional truth, like a well-aimed pebble pinging off a windowpane. Take for example, these complete entries: “She was only with me to have somewhere to write to, an addressee,” and “Life with him is so easy and sweet and joyful. I have a feeling he’s cheating.” You may find yourself laughing out loud in recognition or looking up and around an empty room, wondering if any number of these compact scenes had somehow been lifted straight from your own private journal—or the hidden folds of your memory. Delicate and poignant, the book abounds with the ups, downs, and stagnations of the subject of focus itself. Because of the imposed constraints of the form, the commitment to the episodic and angling toward aphorism, the book expends no energy on overall forward movement, and so some may find this collection better suited for intermittent rather than sustained reading.
A sweet and bitter onslaught of love and desire, found and glimpsed, held and lost. - Kirkus Reviews

In Trysting, translated by Jennifer Higgins and Sophie Lewis, Emmanuelle Pagano arranges poetic vignettes into an elaborate mosaic about love. Each shard, stretching from a few words to the length of a page or so, captures a penetrating moment. We are given love’s beginnings, endings and the many deeply personal stopping points on the journey. A man sees a high-heeled woman who has stumbled in the snow, “head held high … soaking wet all down the back of her coat”, and offers her his arm. Another tells how he packed his lover’s suitcase when she left him: “I wanted to. It was what I’d always done.” A woman reveals “our bedtime ritual ... for ten years now, every evening” she plucks the hairs from her husband’s back. Many passages are extremely sensuous, brimming with the touch, smell and taste of love – “I moistened her all over with saliva to get to know her off by heart.” The profusion of snippets, with no main protagonist or overarching plot, makes it a difficult book to read cover to cover; instead, Pagano has created a beautiful treasury of amorous moments. - Emily Rhodes

“How do I love thee?”
What does it mean to love, to be loved? How do we begin to love, why this person and not another? Why do we abandon our loves, betray the ones to whom we have declared our undying devotion? Emmanuelle Pagano’s Trysting offers insights into the many questions that surround the strange and ever-mysterious workings of our love lives. Boldly wading into waters that have preoccupied poets down the centuries, Pagano gives us a collection of vignettes, short stories, prose poems and one-liners that together form a kaleidoscopic representation of love and lovers in all their multifarious manifestations. Occasionally lyrical, sometimes banal, by turns humorous and heart-breaking, Trysting holds up a mirror to the glories, peculiarities and absurdities of the human heart and its workings.
When I picked up this slim volume and began to read, I must confess I felt some disappointment as I turned the first few pages. I was hoping to plunge into the “novel” promised by the blurb on the back cover. I soon realised however that the lover scratching his stubble and caressing the narrator’s cheek on the opening page would not reappear. There would be no narrative arc, no ongoing interplay of characters, no twists and turns of plot to contemplate in the small hours of the night. Instead, lovers appear on the page – ringing a doorbell, selling calendars, collecting feathers, banging into furniture in a flat that seems too small, chasing storms or scattering rubber bands around the house – only to vanish almost as soon as they have taken shape. Every tale is told in the first person, and with each new narrator, we must start afresh. The reader is left with a feeling, a glimpse of the mysterious alchemy that has taken place between two individuals, that moment or place of trysting promised to us by the book’s title. I adjusted my expectations and understood that this is a book to savour in odd moments, to read and ponder as the occasion arises. I began to read it as I would a book of poetry.
What then emerged from the pages was a dazzling catalogue of amorous encounters in which lovers come together and find their way to an intimate understanding of each other’s oddities. No detail is too strange or too trivial for Pagano’s lovers’ attentions, from toe-nails, shedding hair and other such bodily detritus, to tics and quirks: a lover who chews on bits of wood, another who insists on salting his loved one’s food for her. Lovers are changed, transformed by their attachments: a woman speaks of a seismic shift taking place in her body, a rearranging of all the senses provoked by the loved one’s attentions, another of the aching jaw that results from laughing so much together, the tightening of the skin provoked by happiness.
There is no shortage of eroticism or bodily functions in these pages. One lover declares: Sometimes I want her so much that my legs wobble; another: I used to sniff her all the time. I moistened her all over with saliva to get to know her off by heart. There is the lover’s special smell, her intimate, bedroom smell, her smell mixed with mine, and an adolescent besotted with an older cousin, glorying in the forbidden delight of squeezing spots and pustules on the adored one’s back. A casual encounter leaves a lover in a state of unrequited longing and permanent desire. There are whiskers and nose-hairs, liver spots and blemishes that come with age: Time is pollinating his skin with flowers, with speckles, with stars. The less glamorous aspects of love and intimacy are fully embraced in all their messy splendour, cataloguing the intimate topography of the lovers’ lives.
We read of partings, betrayals, death, desertions and callous abandonment. There is obsessive behaviour, outright stalking, and the sense of disorientation the lover is left with when an all-consuming affair has come to an end. And there is music running through the pages: we hear it with the lover who listens only to the loved one’s fingers drumming on the fret board of the guitar and not the notes produced by the instrument, or as the lover’s skin likened to the skin of a drum, vibrating and resonating at the slightest touch. And of course, there is much tenderness, the warm intimacy of bodies locked in embrace, the lover’s gaze: No one sees what I see when I look at her. The gaze that effaces imperfections, joins up the dotted lines of fragmented experience and allows the man of parts to come together in his lover’s arms.
All of this is beautifully translated in a seamless collaboration by Jennifer Higgins and Sophie Lewis. Pagano’s prose has a luminosity in the original French that could so easily have been lost in too prosaic a translation, but this English rendering bridges the gap between the two languages and successfully conveys the full range of voices and registers that make up this beguiling collection of intimate snapshots. - Aneesa Abbas Higgins

I often think the most inventive books over recent years I have read have come to from French and her is another example. Emmanuell Pagno studied fine arts and then film studies and then became a teacher whilst in 2002 publishing her first novel she has so far written twelve books and has won the EU literature prize for her book The adolescents troglodytes. This is her first book to be translated to English.
I never used to feel at home in her apartment because it was so dirty. I’m very particular, and I don’t like there to be even a speck of dust around the house. she never washed her clothes, just kept wearing the same old things. She didn’t have a washing machine and seemed to know nothing of laundrettes.she never washed the floor or the bathroom or the toilet. Just sometimes she would sweep the kitchen, leaving the pile of dust pushed into a corner. I used to wait untill she was out and then do a spot of cleaning , because she got angry if i did so much as look at a sponge in her presence. I brought a vacuum cleaner over in secret. After a few weeks the apartment had started to look very different and she noticed. She threw me out, along with  all the cleaning products I had hidden behind the rubbish bin under the sink.
I loved this I thought of Myself I was very cluttered when I met Amanda not as bad as here, but this has a saki like humour as well.
Well how to describe this book that is the problem , it is utterly brilliant but hard to describe it is like a pice of art in a way. An art piece of love a collage of pieces of love . those piece of love we all think are captured here there are small glimpse into unknown lives by just the way we look , feel , smell, act and grow together. Then we have the flip side those thing in love that are just strange such as photographing some ones toe clippings is that love or obsession that is a line that pushed . Other place there is sexual underpinnings in the piece like a wife taking her other halves  saxophone and damping its mouthpiece before playing it.
He wraps presents like no one else. Perfect parcels, for christmas or birthdays, neatly taped up, the paper smoothed by the assiduous flat of his hand, with ta fold positioned two-thirds of the way along the top side, as if he were ironing a crease into a shirt. That fold is his signature
don’t we all know when our other half has wrapped our gifts in a pile of gifts?
these vignettes are like forgotten postcards to what we love , i follow a twitter account that has old postcards and what was written on them and this is like that almost some one went to the wall in Verona with the love notes and taken them down and edited to there is no identity to the writer other than the essence of love that drop of words that is love , obsession and sex . I said this is like a piece of art it is like Tracy Enim piece her bed for example said a lot about her and her life or the piece everyone I have ever slept with , this is a cut up of love lives with the names places and people removed . This is one of those books that a few weeks you have read it you will go back and check that or this was said in it a wonderful collection of vignettes on love. - winstonsdad

Language fails as a means to define love; the sentiment is too great, too felt to be held in words. The French author Emmanuelle Pagano’s first book to be translated into English, Trysting, manages to convey the emotion indirectly, definition via fiction. The simplicity of its English title belies the strangeness of the original French, Nouons-nous. Reviewing the various definitions for nouer and trysting, some current, some obsolete, some very specific (the final of six definitions for “tryst” in the Oxford English Dictionary is: An appointed gathering for buying and selling; a market or fair, esp. for cattle) it became clear that Pagano’s achievement is contained within the combined definitions of the two titles. To tryst means to meet at a designated place and time (surprisingly, the OED gives no mention of love or lover). Nouer is a bit more complicated, but en bref it means to tie up, to knot, and the reflexive form means to establish, engage, take shape, begin. Roughly, I read nouons-nous as something like knotting ourselves. Pagano’s book is a series of episodes, whether a brief glance or many years, that reveal the myriad ways love occurs. As two people are brought together, there’s a connection, a start, a moment’s knot. Some of the passages underscore one particular aspect of a relationship and are only as brief as a sentence, while others, running a couple of pages, bring together a wider array of themes. There are no names, often no genders, no ages. Just two people, crossing paths.
Above all the book bears the stamp of emotional truth; there exists no single way to capture or experience love or its loss. There is sweetness, intimacy, humor, pain, loss, suffering, violence, ephemeral unique things that only occur because two particular people intersect at a specific moment in time. The moment of love is a tryst, the formation of a knot.
To read through the slim volume, is to find all your own memories of different relationships coming to mind—ones that you’ve experienced, ones that you’ve witnessed, ones that you could imagine coming to pass. This resonance speaks to how universal many of the trysts actually are; a fair number, for example, center around sharing a bed. Even as the feelings Pagano’s characters experience in this space—intimacy, thrill, boredom, tedium, violence—verge on the particular, they are familiar; to be awake while your bedfellow sleeps unaware of you is so common as to be almost mundane. “I watch him sleeping and feel very far away during these long nights of insomnia. I gaze at him, so calm, wrapped up in the bedding. I’m completely alone next to this sleeping man.” The bed is the closest space to share with a partner, yet even here loneliness exists, and insensitivities can speak magnitudes. “I can’t stand it anymore, this being dragged awake at night that he puts me through, when I’ve fallen into a deep sleep and he comes to bed after me, loud and lumbering, not bothering to check if I’m already asleep.” In the multiplicity of these scenes, Trysting seems to insist love is created, made, and lost in bed.
The bedtime passages demonstrate in part one of the central themes running through the book—those things that we feel and notice about our partner but refuse to say out loud, those sentiments that Pagano shares only with the reader and that we share with no one at all in our own lives. “With him I always felt pleasure without showing it. I wouldn’t fake it—on the contrary—I’d hide my orgasms from him.” Another episode fixates on the dishonesties in a relationship, raising that question of how well we can ever know the person we are with: “So I lie to her. I need her in order to become the man I must become, but I’m not sure I love her . . . I would like her to teach me not to lie anymore, but if I stop lying, I’ll no longer be able to tell her I love her.” Even when an occasional one-liner reads as a platitude that can almost go without saying because so many people have had this same thought, its underlying truth shows precisely why Pagano included it. “No one sees what I see when I look at her.” Not even you, reader.
There is the way love appears to the outside world, the way that same love exists for the beloved, and the way that love exists only within the lover’s thoughts. As it appears to the outside world, there is a passage towards the end of the book that is abrupt and pointed, “I wonder if, when they hear the banging that seems to be coming from our apartment, our neighbors think he’s doing some renovations, even late at night, or if they hear me too, whimpering and begging him to stop.” Pagano at once brings us into this darkest part of the intimacy in this couple and at the same time shines a light on the rest of the world, and the reader wonders along with the narrator, do the neighbors really think nothing is wrong or is this a willful blind eye? Another take on love in the public’s eye that comes a little later:
He isn’t very relaxed in groups, and at the slightest hint of emotion, he stutters. He stutters saying my name, and I love it. I think he’s noticed, so he does it a lot, calls out to me, says my name. When we’re alone he never stutters, but as soon as we’re out in public, having a drink with friends, he turns to me on the slightest pretext, multiplying my name in his mouth.
Other passages encompass an entire life and touch on several themes, several truths. A few I read without thinking twice, some made me chuckle with their frank humor and others shocked me in their uncanny similarity to my own experience. I laughed out loud at a particular few that brought back immediate memories and feelings of adolescent angst (the fraught nerves of speaking to your crush on the phone!). At the same time, Pagano’s sections on age and aging, at once connected to and distinct from the theme of time’s passage, are subtly moving. One of the stories that struck me the most is the following:
In the beginning, as a timid newcomer, I allowed myself to fall into the arms he held out to me. I had only moved into the retirement home under pressure from my children. I felt lost and betrayed. He was there, he comforted me, he offered me the solace of a love story at an age when I thought I had forgotten everything about love. When I found my bearings, he left. I’d forgotten nothing about love; it hurts as much as ever. He moved on to a resident who is starting to show signs of dementia and has trouble remembering things. One of the nurses told me to stop crying. She said it wasn’t worth it. She has known him for years, and he only latches on to women who are disoriented. He wants them to need him. When they recover a bit, like you, he leaves them. It shows you’re doing better.
The narrator’s age has not changed her feelings: “I’d forgotten nothing about love; it hurts as much as ever.” Age collapses love here—at first it might be joyful, but the familiarity is that of pain. I also noted that the language of the elderly narrator’s conversation with the nurse is resonant of many I’ve had with friends in our twenties and thirties. Is the truism of plus ça change one to fear or to accept?
This passage is a cousin to one about a person in an intensive care unit after some kind of accident. The nurse here ignores all requests to call the patient’s wife and instead takes the patient’s hand: “The young woman’s hand wasn’t helping me or calming me down . . . The hand held mine without hurting me and without comforting me.” The whole passage runs maybe half a page, and we are in a confused fog, the patient’s own pain causing us ever more worry, until its final lines hit: “And suddenly that hand drew away and was replaced by a different one. This hand was rough and wrinkled. I squeezed it hard. It was old, twisted by years of work, by life, all this life of ours.” The passage is recast; we are relieved from what we’ve just read, allowed to see the power in a gesture, the restorative strength offered by the love of a life that has been fully lived together.
Many passages highlight sweetness, joy, and the other positive facets of love. But a thread of loss, heartbreak and difficult recovery runs through. And while Trysting may be about how to love, Pagano is also examining how to live. Life lived tied to other people, life lived when that comes undone. One speaker’s life comes apart when his girlfriend leaves him: “My basic functions were abandoning me, just as she had; I didn’t have the strength to cry, or even enough water in me for tears. When tears, hunger, thirst, and digestion returned, I realized that I was alive and that living, filling my belly, getting things moving, getting dirty, would help me forget her.” It seems obvious but the experience of love’s arrival and departure is quite literally lived through, there’s no way but through. In another episode, the speaker has an indescribable oppression that is “just a little too persistent. I have to live with it, since I don’t live with him anymore.”
Love can be cruel and tortuous; misleading in that it promises the most but will also leave you and cause you the deepest suffering. Sometimes even while it is present:
Our bodies, our house, our things, everything had to be beautiful. Otherwise, he would say, we can’t go on. He found me fat, dowdy, and brash, brash in how I dressed and the way I spoke. I was ugly and tacky. Because I loved him, I lost fifteen kilos, let him choose my clothes, and above all, I took to living in silence, afraid that with my noise, my everyday noise, the noise of my life, I would annoy him. He thought I was vulgar in spite of everything. I would have liked to shout, to really test the limits of our bodies and our voices; I would have liked to shout, play, take pleasure. I thought that’s what living was about.
Notwithstanding the impossibility of such an act, Trysting attempts to translate emotion into words, and Jennifer Higgins and Sophie Lewis have reenacted this endeavor by translating these words from Pagano’s language to ours. Translation, fittingly, is directly addressed by a translator in love with the writer whose work she translates:
I’ll never dare tell him how I feel . . . And yet I am en tête-à-tête with him almost constantly, when I’m working on his books. I’m in his head, in his language, in his sentences. One day I bumped into his wife, we even had a chat, and I realized that she doesn’t know him as well as I do, I who spend my time probing his most intimate thoughts and examining his every word as I translate his books into French.
To translate a feeling to a written expression and make an emotion literal, physical, to give it form—this is what Pagano succeeds in doing, giving shape to the inexpressible, the fleeting thing felt but never said out loud. Her book is remarkable in its refusal to be limited to the revelatory or the shocking or the surprising. Some of the fragments wander a little—they don’t go off course in terms of theme or subject matter, but they lean to the fantastical, or fable-like, and these feel a step out of place. I didn’t love the final passage of a woman observing a man drawing a tree who attracts all manner of songbird, but it did bring me back to the beginning of the book, the sounds that you hear with someone: “I wake up, and I can hear the sound of little creatures walking around on an invisible cloth stretched tight next to my ear, stretched between me and him.”
I cannot pretend I did not finish working on this review until after the election. And, after the death of Leonard Cohen—news that I received on a bus to Boston, and that brought me to tears. Feeling broken of spirit and of heart, this book review suddenly felt silly. But, as I found various constructive avenues for my nervous energy, I kept thinking about this slim volume—what it means to write and read about love between people, in all its forms, in a time of its glaring absence. I have no great conclusion to offer, but have noted every single act of kindness between strangers over the past days, which are not unlike these trysts—brief, but poignant. Pagano has given us a way in to a feeling that is beyond words, and yet we all know what it is when we have it, and know what it is to be bereft of it. Words matter, and it is no small miracle that Pagano’s offer a safe harbor. - Lauren Goldenberg

Trysting is one of those rare books that defy description it in any sort of a review.  At its core, Pagano’s book presents us with a series of writings in various lengths that deal with the human experience of love.   Her musings in this book range from short, one line epigrams to longer two page narratives that read like flash fiction.  Pagano attempts to capture all of the stages that being in love and having a lover encompass—meeting someone special for the first time, spending time together, learning the habits of another person, breaking up, getting over a lover.  She intersperses within these events things that lovers leave behind like feathers, rubber bands, a bicycle.  Some of the vignettes are shocking, some are tender and sweet.  But at their core, they all try to delineate the mysterious and illusive sensation of love.  Senses—touch, site, smell, sound, taste are all described within the context of love.
The shorter pieces, which are only a line or two, read like epigrams and feel as though Pagano is trying to capture a moment in time between lovers.  They read like a caption on a photograph:
“He sprays a mist of water onto his newspaper to stop the pages rustling as he reads next to me while I sleep.”
“His breathing, even during the day, even when he’s busy doing something, is like that of a person asleep.  Regular and calm.  I like this peace.”
“No one sees what I see when I look at her.”
“He has a serene way of being in silent moments.  I was never afraid of having nothing to say to him.”
The longer pieces, which range from two to three pages in length, read like flash fiction stories and provide a frame for which the reader can fill in the rest of the picture.  In one story, for instance, a couple moves from apartment to apartment, like vagabonds constantly on the move living in different places.  The couple pretends to be interested in renting an apartment and gets the key from the estate agent and spends as much time as they can get away with at each rental: “The estate agents never notice a thing, nor do the landlords.  We make love in their apartments, we sleep in them, we live our shared life in them and it’s as good a life as any.  We change location, move to a different town, everyday.”
In another story, a musician who plays the saxophone is always annoying his upstairs neighbor even though he uses a mute for his instrument.  She leaves him terse little notes and knocks on his door whenever he is practicing.  The only noise he ever hears from her apartment is the dull sound of her squeaking bed when her boyfriend stays over:  “They always screw to the same rhythm, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s definitely screwing, not making love, because it’s always the same dogged, dreary, binary rhythm.”  The musician wants to invite the woman to his apartment and get to know her and introduce her to a whole new world of rhythm: “I’ll tell her to let herself go, be carried by my breath, by my sax, my mouth, my lips, my melody.”
One final aspect I want to mention that is integral to the writings in this collection is their sensual nature.  Pagano manages to represent all the senses and put them in the context of lovers:
Touch: “It was very cold.  I hadn’t put gloves on.  I defrosted my fingers between my thighs before letting them touch her.”
Sound: “I met him when I called a wrong number.  His voice was so lovely, saying I must have made a mistake, that I couldn’t bring myself to hang up.”
Smell: “I used to sniff her all the time.  Odours are always stronger when they’re damp.  Perfumers dampen thin strips of paper to sample their scents.  Dampening an area, an object, or a body helps us to smell it and get to know it fully.  I moistened her all over with saliva to get to know her off by heart.”
Hearing: “The things I miss most are the sounds, the sounds of our love, the noises of lovemaking and sleeping together, the noises of waking up.”
Sight:  “We are getting old.  I like the signs of ageing on him, the wrinkles and folds, the emergence of moles and liver spots.  I wonder if these marks appear all of a sudden or little by little.  I look out for signs of these blossomings.  Tine is pollinating his skin with flowers, with speckles with stars.”
This book is a truly unique literary experience that can be read like a collection of poetry, slowly, a little bit at a time when one has quiet and the mood strikes. -

While reading Trysting by Emanuelle Pagano, something troubled me. Not the prose (which is lovely and beautifully translated by Jennifer Higgins and Sophie Lewis) and certainly not the content. The subject matter of Trysting is often troubling, but I'm an adult and as such, am capable of dissecting complicated material and realizing that relationships are complicated and often unhealthy. I can read challenging material—and Trysting is often challenging—without internalizing trauma. No, the content is justified and forever relevant.
What bothered me was the title itself. Translated from the French, Trysting doesn't seem to address the meat of the book in any particular way. Nouons-Nous, the original French title, seems to be a sort of idiom, one that doesn't make a lot of sense when imported to English (as often happens with idioms). Roughly speaking—let the record show that the reviewer speaks poor Spanish, minimal German, and scant Japanese—Nouons-Nous would translate to "are establishing us." In English, it doesn't quite scan. Perhaps, Establishing Us?
This might seem like quibbling, but it is important, because Trysting is a scattershot book of hundreds of tiny vignettes, encompassing everything from initial encounters to literal trysting, to the dissolution of love, to rape and violence, to unrequited, seen-from-across-the-way romanticism. "Nouons-Nous" drills down to the bedrock of the establishment of us. It's a broad topic that can and does encompass infinite arrays of interpretation. To boil that down to "trysting" seems to downplay the struggle and minimize it. Of course, that may be the point, part of the construction.
What Pagano has constructed here, using sentence-, paragraph-, or page-long vignettes is not a narrative as such. There are no names, no specific characters, no given locations that function as landmarks for the reader. Those coming in with expectations of a story are going to be disappointed. However, what is found within Trysting is no less affecting for its non-linear structure. Although Pagano isn't telling a story, she is telling a theme, telling a tone, telling a part of life that resists too-particular expression. And she's exploring this aspect of life through humor, pathos, through chilling detail and through whimsy.
The vignettes are spaced in such a way as to keep the reader guessing which direction is up. Pagano never quite allows the pieces to fall into order, which would allow the reader to become complacent. Instead, she will pair a lovely description of intimacy, "I love it when he goes around naked in my house. It's as if he lived here," with a simple line of chilling matter-of-factness, "Desire for her made me stronger, a good deal stronger than her." That these vignettes are on opposing pages, offset by a simple description of a cup of coffee and a divorce, illustrates what's inside the pages of Trysting.
Not that everything within is heavy or meant to elicit anything beyond a smile. Segments of Trysting are intended to evoke laughter. Because what happens between two people can be a joyous, miraculous relationship.
He was inaccessible, taken up with his work, his friends, his social life. He never looked at me . . . I waited until he left for a few days over Christmas and I moved into his apartment. I knew where he hid the key. I unpacked and put everything away, leaving no hint of my recent arrival . . . I divided the walk-in closet into two, I mixed our books together . . . I was cooking when he came in . . . When he asked who I was, I acted surprised, indignant, laughing it off . . . He sees me, he looks at me, he touches me, and he's getting used to me.
Of course, even though Pagano judiciously sprinkles levity through her work, there are passages that rend the heart. Divorce, unrequited love, simple dissolution and, of course, death, dwell inside of Trysting. That the words are lyrical and poetic does little to soften the ache when reading the passages that focus on what happens when "us" becomes "me."
I went to the clinic to catch his soul and bring it back home. I had string with me to lead it. A great big ball of thick string. I went up to him, embraced him one last time, rested my lips on already cold eyelids, then took his wrist and tied the string to it, as I had seen my grandmother do with my grandfather's wrist in the local hospital. Then, from this bracelet, I unrolled the ball across the room, down the corridors of the clinic, and out to the courtyard where a taxi was waiting for me. I ignored the looks and questions. I held on to the string through the open car window; he followed me the whole way. I talked to him, telling him to come with me, to come back home. I asked the driver to drive very smoothly so that the string wouldn't get broken. I got out without letting go of the ball, which was almost all gone now, and went into the house. I continued unwinding it all the way into our room, right into the bed. I put the end of the string to bed between our sheets.
How Pagano manages to convey painful truth into lovely, simple prose is a marvel. There's so much beauty in Pagano's words, even translated from her mother tongue to English. The translation work is so seamless that it reads as if it could have been originally written in English. Perhaps it's the sentiment at work. There's something about love, romance, lust, passion, anger, even obsession, that lends itself to thick prose that feels like hands can be run through it. Pagano's translators, perhaps because they're working with such a rich topic, translate fully and evocatively. At no point does Trysting slow down or hold anything back. It's a tapestry of prose throughout.
Pagano won the EU Prize for Literature in 2012 for her novel, Les Adolescents troglodytes and it wouldn't be surprising if she wins another prize for Trysting. It's a lovely, challenging book that delves into a challenging topic in an intriguing, unusual way. How else to explore how to become us than by giving the reader hundreds of "Us-es" and asking them to identify themselves within? - Michael B. Tager

Born in 1969 in the Aveyron region of southern France, Emmanuelle Pagano studied fine art and the aesthetics of cinema. She now lives and works on the Ardèche plateau. She has written more than a dozen works of fiction, and in France is primarily published by P.O.L. She has won the EU Prize for Literature and her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages. She regularly collaborates with artists working in other disciplines such as dance, cinema, photography, illustration, fine art and music.