Books by Mark Polizzotti

SLEEP OF MEMORY by Patrick Modiano
Released: Oct. 16, 2018

"A future biographer won't be able to build much of a timeline of the events Modiano so evocatively describes, relics of a world that no longer exists. An elegant work of suggestion and misdirection."
A languid, novelistic portrait of the artist—winner of the Nobel Prize in literature in 2014—as a young man. Read full book review >
THE ORDER OF THE DAY by Éric Vuillard
Released: Sept. 25, 2018

"In this meticulously detailed and evocative book, history comes alive, and it isn't pretty."
A meditation on Austria's capitulation to the Nazis. The book won the 2017 Prix Goncourt. Read full book review >
THE BLACK NOTEBOOK by Patrick Modiano
Released: Sept. 27, 2016

"An atmospheric, smoky, sepia-toned whodunit, though more for fans of Camus than Chandler."
"Around us, you're in danger of catching leprosy": French Nobel Prize winner Modiano (Villa Triste, 2016, etc.) explores the criminal demimonde in a short but potent novel that's as elegant as Claude Rains and as sinister as Peter Lorre. Read full book review >
BRED TO KILL by Frank Thilliez
Released: Jan. 8, 2015

"French author Thilliez's follow-up to his international hit Syndrome E is nearly as good, leaving us eager to have the rest of his efforts released in the U.S."
Paris-based Inspector Sharko and Lille police detective Lucie Henebelle, both shadows of their former selves following the abduction of the latter's twin daughters at the end of Syndrome E (2012), reunite to investigate a bizarre series of genetically engineered murders.Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 11, 2014

"Yes, but fictions with a moral bite, depicting a world in which everyone, it seems, is complicit in crimes not yet specified. Moody, elegant and dour."
"One meets the strangest people in one's life." Indeed, and so it is in this somber trilogy of novellas from the recent French Nobel Prize winner. Read full book review >
I'M GONE by Jean Echenoz
Released: May 6, 2014

"French writer Echenoz brings a revised edition of his 1999 novel to American readers with an introduction by Lily Tuck. The translation by Polizzotti is elegant, emphasizing the book's wry humor with economical emphasis. This novel is a quick read and a true jewel."
A mystery that doubles as a sly work of serious literature. Read full book review >
SYNDROME E by Franck Thilliez
Released: Aug. 16, 2012

"Having achieved bestseller status in Europe, Thilliez is poised to do the same in the U.S."
In this terrific French thriller, a veteran Paris profiler struggling with paranoid schizophrenia and a lonely female police detective are brought together by a series of gruesome murders that have something to do with an old experimental film containing disturbing subliminal images. Read full book review >
OUT OF MY HEAD by Didier van Cauwelaert
Released: Dec. 7, 2004

"A little gem."
Delightful comic tale about a man who can't convince anyone he's who he says he is. Read full book review >
PIANO by Jean Echenoz
Released: April 15, 2004

"A trifle that at times has trouble filling its own pages and is often too coy for its own good. Probably more fun for those who don't yet know that death doesn't hurt and that God is a skinny guy named Lopez."
The latest from Goncourt-winning Echenoz (also see p. 143), starts well but ends up wan and thin. Read full book review >
A CLEANING WOMAN by Christian Oster
Released: Feb. 1, 2003

"If you have to read it, better open a nice French red."
Vapid and pretentious tale of obsessive love. Read full book review >
I’M GONE by Jean Echenoz
Released: March 1, 2001

"Amazingly, the shaggy tale winds up more conclusively than any of Echenoz's four previously translated novels (Big Blondes, 1997, etc.), though nearly every sentence crackles with enough sly humor to keep the author's postmodern credentials intact."
Crime novel, the 1999 Prix Goncourt-winner, that's also a whimsical tale of the eternal (and eternally rewarding) midlife search for new partners and a deadpan commentary on its own contrivances. Read full book review >
BREAK OF DAY by André Breton
Released: Oct. 18, 1999

Originally published in France in 1934, this complements previously translated collections of essays by the leading theorist of Surrealism (The Lost Steps and Free Rein, 1996), this time focusing on works written during the period of Surrealist maturation (1924—33). Ranging significantly in content and style, this compendium does justice to Breton's complex character, just as it pinpoints some innate contradictions within Surrealism. Despite that movement's "will towards complete disorientation from everything," Breton demonstrates an acute awareness of reality around him, addressing politics, ideology, art, criminal trials, psychiatry, and mesmerism. Many of his pronouncements betray an intimate knowledge of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, whom he holds in high esteem. "Surrealism's total commitment to dialectical materialism" and to "the admirable cause of the proletariat" prompts him to apply rigid ideological criteria to artists and writers. He dismisses out of hand such literary icons as Claudel, Cocteau, and France, all of whom he condemns as counterrevolutionaries due to their association with the French literary establishment. Meanwhile, Breton extols everything exhibiting even a grain of revolt against the existing order of things. In his effusive praise of Dal°, Eluard, and Russian Futurist poet Mayakovsky, the Surrealist credo remains in the forefront, with its subversion, voluntary hallucination, and "automatic writing." Although Surrealist creative output failed to implement the goal of automatic, or subconscious, writing, Breton considers it the cornerstone of modern art, comparing it to mediumistic composition. It's refreshing to hear Breton acknowledge his indebtedness to certain personalities from the past, particularly German Romantic Achim von Arnim and French Symbolist Rimbaud. The ultimate goal of art, according to Breton, is not to describe what can be observed by all, but to give flesh and blood to the unseen world accessible only to the artist's perception. Breton's flowery prose, permeated with bizarre imagery and disjointed fantasies and punctuated by frequent ellipsis, is made still more challenging to read in the present translation: what sounds highfalutin in French often degenerates into awkward, run-on English sentences. Read full book review >
SEVEN DREAMS OF ELMIRA by Patrick Chamoiseau
Released: Aug. 1, 1999

Seven Dreams Of Elmira ($20.00; Aug.; 64 pp.; photographs by Jean-Luc Laguardique; 1-58195-002-0): This quaint and curious little volume combines a number of striking photographs (black and white and color landscapes and portraits) that celebrate the West Indian island of Martinique with a terse prose poem written by that island's most successful literary export: the Creole-born author of such lush, exuberant fictions as Texaco (1997) and Solibo Magnificent (1998). Chamoiseau's tongue- in-cheek tale describes the drowsy state of nirvana enjoyed by the long-lived inhabitants of Gros-Morne, home of the Saint- Etienne distillery, where the world's best rum is produced and the inexplicable appearances of an unknown and otherworldly beauty (the eponymous Elmira) seem to preside over, and bless its spiritous bounty. A minor but charming addition to Chamoiseau's exotic and distinctive oeuvre. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 1995

This hefty debut biography gives a respectful, impartial account of AndrÇ Breton's (18961966) life and of the movement he founded and led. The eclectic Surrealist alumni include many of the century's most famous artistsDal°, Giacometti, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Luis Bu§uelmost of whom eventually left the movement's ranks or were expelled, Polizzotti observes, because of ``the conflict between their need to develop freely and Breton's will to maintain a Surrealist cohesion in his own unstable image.'' Born to lower-class parents who encouraged a medical career, Breton began his literary strivings under the influence of Symbolism, the avant-garde poet Apollinaire, and the manic playwright Alfred Jarry. After a fraught association with Dadaism, Breton and his compatriots embarked on Surrealism, drawing on their previous literary experiments and Freud's writings on madness and dreams. Charismatic, cerebral, and autocratic, Breton was dubbed the ``pope'' of Surrealism as its chief organizer and theoretician, and Polizzotti capably, if staidly, recounts the ceremonial sessions of automatic writing, induced slumber, and verbal games like Exquisite Corpse. Breton also engaged in bull-like manifestos and excommunications, such as those of Louis Aragon for joining the Stalinist French Communists and Dal° for independence. This puritanical dogmatism was offset by personal idealism and a lyric streak that expressed themselves in romantic attachments and hero worship. Polizzotti recounts Breton's relations with not only the famous (the unimpressed Freud and the philistine Trotsky) but also the biographically problematicthe enigmatic dandy Jacques VachÇ and the half-mad ``Nadja,'' both of whom Breton mythologized in his work. Surrealism thrived on public outrage, but by the end of WW II it was a spent force, as was Breton. Polizzotti, the editorial director of David R. Godine, is more scrupulous in supplying the external essentials than the inspired madness of Breton's inward experiment. (photos, not seen) Read full book review >
Released: May 8, 1995

The thoughtless words of childhood become the focus of the narrator's haunted memories of WW II. Helen recalls the events of her ninth birthday in occupied France in 1942. Lydia, her best friend, comes over to spend the night, and they amuse themselves by telling ghost stories. When a stranger wearing a yellow star like Lydia's comes looking for a place to hide, Lydia suddenly wants to go home. Helen is angry and shouts to the departing girl that she is not her friend anymore. The next day Lydia and her family have disappeared. The simple storyline brings together a complex combination of elements—ghost stories and fights between friends who suddenly find themselves in the context of war—all of which are penetrated by an equally complex narratorial voice, capable of differentiating among subtle shades of emotion. It belongs both to the old woman telling the story and to the nine-year-old girl she was. As a result of this layering of perspective, the characters and story have depth through minimal means (sketchy details, snatches of conversation). This is even more effective in the wondrous pictures. In her first book, Kang's palette contains only browns, grays, yellows, and redsmuted colors, forming the geometric interiors of barren apartments. If the individual colors and shapes in the pictures are simple, as a whole they create an intensely expressive atmosphere. (Picture book. 7-10) Read full book review >