A reissue of the author’s 1985 novella, an elliptical meditation on possessions and their loss.
This work by French-born novelist Lewinter (Story of Love in Solitude, 1989, etc.) has a definite arc, following the declining health of the narrator’s parents. But it’d be off-base to say it has a plot: Lewinter is a prose poet, delivering long, sinuous, and complex sentences that switch back and forth in time and weave around the story. (This edition includes the original French text to compare to Careau’s translation.) So though he’s contemplating mom’s and dad’s mortality, Lewinter’s hero is doing so through the filter of objects: a coveted LP; a bespoke shawl; Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetry; a set of vintage porcelain. Rather than suggesting that the narrator’s fixation on stuff is misguided, Lewinter delivers an appreciation of the spiritual power of things: the shawl, for instance, possesses a “serene luminosity” whose threads are “equal parts solid, liquid, ethereal”; a singer on a record “becomes an elaboration of the divine.” Compared to the blunter depictions of his father’s trips in and out of the hospital and ultimately to hospice, the narrator can seem shallow; a brief fling with a street drunk only bolsters the notion. But Lewinter’s narrator is more interested in aesthetics than in morals. He seeks “that which transfigures the void,” and because he feels that’s more likely to be found in a song that can’t die, his remove from his father has a certain poignancy. The wooliness of the narration doesn’t wholly sell the point, but Lewinter unquestionably brings a lot of gravitas to a brief, abstracted tale.
A provocative, sometimes-baffling set of riffs on inanimate objects and death, in that order.