Stylistic Challenges

August 25, 2014 | By Book Department

Want to read something new, intellectually stimulating and surprising? These are reads like you have never seen before: a one-sentence story, a fiction with missing letters and characters, and a plot told almost a hundred times. Both puzzling and exciting, these reads will have you scratching your head and itching for more.


Zone, Mathias Enard (Open Letter Books, 2010)
Written as a single, hypnotic, propulsive sentence, Mathias Énard’s Zone provides a panoramic view of the turmoil on the shores of the Mediterranean through the story of Francis Servain Mirković, a French-born Croat who has been working for the French Intelligence Services for fifteen years.

The Void, George Pérec (Verba Mundi, 2005)
Perec delivers a real prowess with this multi-plot story in which the letter “e” never appears.  After the eccentric Anton Vowl goes missing, his friends find his diary and try to unlock the verbal puzzles within. As they investigate various leads, they too disappear—one by one—and under the most mysterious circumstances.

Exercices in Style, Raymond Queneau (New Directions, 2013)
The narrator meets a man in a bus who gets into a heated verbal fight with another man before finally deciding to sit elsewhere. Later, he meets the same man again who is talking with a friend about one of the buttons on his coat. This very short story is told 99 times in 99 different ways.


Too hot, too cold, too angry, too quiet, too busy, too lonely? We have the solutions here! Fun, fear and passion await. Each week, we will post thematic lists of great titles so you can let your bookworming desires run wild. Follow us on Twitter @FrenchBooksUSA

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