A wild, Kafka-esque romp through a dystopian landscape, probing thedarkly comic nature of the human condition.
The Investigator is a man quite like any other. He is balding, of medium build, dresses conservatively—in short, he is unremarkable in every way. He has been assigned to conduct an Investigation of a series of suicides (twenty-two in the past eighteen months) that have taken place at the Enterprise, a huge, sprawling complex located in an unnamed Town. The Investigator's train is delayed, and when he finally arrives, there's no one to pick him up at the station. It is alternating rain and snow, it's getting late, and there are no taxis to be seen. Off sets the Investigator, alone, into the night, unsure quite how to proceed.
So begins the Investigator's series of increasingly frustrating attempts to fulfill his task. In the course of hours of wandering looking for the entrance to The Enterprise, he bumps into a stranger hurrying past and spills open his luggage, soaking his clothes. When he finally reaches the Enterprise, he is told he does not posses the proper authorization documents to enter after regular hours. Asking for directions to a hotel, he is informed "We're not the Tourist Office," and must set off to find one himself. Time and time again, regulations hamstring him, street layouts befuddle him, and all the while he senses someone watching him, recording his every movement.
In a highly original work that is both absorbing and fascinating, Claudel undertakes a sweeping critique of the contemporary world through a variety of modes. Like Kafka, Beckett, and Huxley, he has crafted a dark fable that evokes the absurdity and alienation of existence with piercing intelligence and considerable humor.
About Philippe Claudel
Philippe Claudel is the author of many novels, including Brodeck, which won the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens in 2007 and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2010. His novel By a Slow River has been translated into thirty-two languages and was awarded the Prix Renaudot in 2003 and the Elle Readers’ Literary Prize in 2004. Claudel also wrote and directed the 2008 film I’ve Loved You So Long, starring Kristin Scott Thomas, which won a BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language.
About John Cullen
John Cullen in the translator of more than fifteen books from the French, Italian, German, and Spanish. He began his association with Nan A. Talese/Doubleday in 1995 and his translations for the imprint include Susanna Tamaro's Follow Your Heart from the Italian, Christa Wolf's Medea from the German, and Henning Boetius's The Phoenix from the German. Last year, two of his translations were short-listed for The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award: Margaret Mazzantini's Don't Move from the Italian and Yasmina Khadra's The Swallows of Kabul from the French.
Cullen is the also the co-author with Alexandra de Borchgrave of Villard: The Life and Times of an American Titan and is a freelance scout for foreign books. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees in English from Loyola University and University of Virginia respectively, and earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Texas. A year of full-time university teaching after graduate school gave him the urge to travel, and he set out on the first of a series of sojourns in Europe, living in Paris, Rome, Vienna, and Madrid, among other places, which for a time included his dauntless little Fiat Panda; these sojourns generally ended after his contributions to various European economies had reduced him to penury, a process that took anywhere from eighteen months to three years. Originally from New Orleans, John Cullen lives in Millbrook, New York, with the writer Valerie Martin.
“A world that is by turns farcical, absurdist, allegorical. . . . Skillfully evokes the insidious, modern fear that we, like the Investigator, are playing bit parts in some vast, incomprehensible system.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Impressive . . . a self-aware book about self-awareness, about the process of becoming a person, the search for self. . . . [Claudel] has managed a rare trick.” —The Daily Telegraph (London)
“Darkly comic, pleasingly strange.” —The Daily Beast