Mathias Enard: Street of Thieves

“I read too, more every time, a pleasant way to trick boredom, death, to trick thought itself by distracting it, by distancing it from the truth, the only truth, which is: we are all caged animals who live for pleasure, in obscurity.” p.13

“Sometimes we sense the situation is escaping us, that things are getting out of hand; we become afraid and instead of calmly looking, trying to understand, we react like a dog caught in barbed wire, thrashing about madly until it slices open its throat.” p.99

“I am what I have read, I am what I have seen, I have as much Arab in me as Spanish or French, I have been multiplied in those mirrors until I have been lost or rebuilt, fragile image, image in motion.” p.271

Mathias Enard, Street of Thieves (trans. Charlotte Mandell)

Mathias Enard: Zone

All morning spent absorbed in Mathias Enard’s Zone; the same wonder at Charlotte Mandell’s translation as Shelley Frisch’s rendering of Stach’s biography of Kafka. Zone is better read in long immersive binges, punctuated by dreamy Bordeaux or grassy Sencha Fukujyu tea.

Enard’s circumlocutory thoughts, precisely paced over the long Rome-ward train journey, never falter or lose their pace. Sometimes with a book, you get that fortunate feeling that this book has found its ideal reader, or as Enard writes, “sometimes you come across books that resemble you, they open up your chest from chin to navel, stun you . . .” I love that word resemble, so close to reassemble. Both accurate in this case. After Zone I feel in need of reassembly.

” . . . too many things there are too many things everything is too heavy even a train won’t manage to carry those memories to Rome they weigh so much, they weigh more than all the executioners and victims in the briefcase over my seat . . .” That’s what Zone is about, but like Calasso’s books, it is also about everything else.

The Alexander Express

I’ll not get past this passage today, from Mathias Enard’s Zone, translated so elegantly by Charlotte Mandell. Dreams of an endless train journey through old, weary places. If I read a better book than Zone this year I shall be fortunate.

” . . . and the employee (a blonde Venetian, a kind of barrette held in her mouth like a toothpick) had looked at me stunned, to Alexandria but there’s a train, and in that immediate confidence one has in professionals I had pictured, for a second, a train that would go from Venice to Alexandria in Egypt, direct via Trieste Zagreb Belgrade Thessalonica Istanbul Antioch Aleppo Beirut Acre and Port Said, a challenge to geopolitics and to the mind, and even, once I had understood her confusion, Alessandria in Piedmont, I had began to dream of a train that would unite all the Alexandrias, a network connecting Alessandria in Piedmont Alexandria Troas in Turkey Alexandria in Egypt Alexandria in Arachosia, possibly the most mysterious of them all, lost in Afghanistan far from railroads the train would be called The Alexander Express and would go from Alexandria Eschate in Tajikistan to Piedmont through the lips of Africa in thirteen days and as many nights . . .”