Lives on Paper

By Susan Harris

We're delighted to note the publication of Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud's Life on Paper, a collection of short stories selected and translated by Edward Gauvin. Châteaureynaud is recognized as one of France's top fabulists, but had little exposure in English until Gauvin began translating and promoting his work. Those of you who read "Delaunay the Broker" in our November 2005 issue already know the author's blend of the mundane and the fantastic, the deftness with which he guides his characters into the liminal world. In this collection, a literally combustible tenant rents a house made of marble; a cabdriver delivers a fare to a street not on any map; a grief-crazed widower photographs every moment of his daughter's life. "Everything about me is absurd," remarks one character, and the same might be said of Châteaureynaud; but if the plots and characters are sometimes cruel, they are also informed with the author's generosity and compasssion.

In related news of the fantastic, Edward Gauvin has been awarded the British Comparative Literature Association's annual Dryden Translation Prize for his rendering of the story "Le Pain rouge" (The Red Loaf), by Andre Pieyre de Mandiargues. A French writer of the 1960s, Mandiargues was one of Châteaureynaud's influences. Watch for this story, with its echoes of Gulliver's Travels, in a future issue of WWB.


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