978-1-55245-172-4 / 9781552451724

Mauve Desert


Publisher:Coach House



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About the book:

Nicole Brossard is Canada's most important, and most prolific, writer of experimental fiction and poetry. Writing in French, she has twice won the Governor General's Award and has published more than 20 books. Mauve Desert, translated into English by Susanne de Lotbinière-Harwood, is "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma," as Churchill once said of Russia. Set in the desert of the American Southwest (site of early atomic bomb testing and about as far as you can get on the continent from Brossard's homeland of Quebec), the novel comprises three related sections: one tells the story of the mysterious adventures of 15-year-old Melanie, her mother, and her mother's lover; one traces the writing and reading of that story; and one relates the story's ultimate translation.

Heavily influenced by the French philosophical traditions of the 20th century, Brossard sees the world as an intellectual playground, stating, "Reality is what we invent." All her characters, as well as the natural world, are elements in that created, fictionalized universe: "Very young I learned to love the fire from the sky, torrential lightning branched out over the city like thinking flowing in the mind." Every action of her unpredictable characters takes on the feel of ritual. Each scene is a tableau, each ordinary object (a revolver, an auto maintenance book) wrapped in an aura of mystery as if it represents all revolvers, all books. An atmosphere of hyperreality informs the work, which at times feels highly filmic. (Wim Wenders's Paris, Texas comes to mind.) In the end, Brossard's subject is language itself: she explores the idea of "the text" in a way that is highly charged, profoundly unsettling, and at times suggestively apocalyptic. --Mark Frutkin

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