1914

Written by Jean Echenoz, translated by Linda Coverdale | January 7, 2014
1914, by Jean Echenoz, translated by Linda Coverdale, The New Press, January 2014

Jean Echenoz, considered by many to be the most distinguished and versatile living French novelist, turns his attention to the deathtrap of World War I in 1914. In it, five Frenchmen go off to war, two of them leaving behind a young woman who longs for their return. But the main character in this brilliant novel is the Great War itself. Echenoz, whose work has been compared to that of writers as diverse as Joseph Conrad and Laurence Sterne, leads us gently from a balmy summer day deep into the relentless—and, one hundred years later, still unthinkable—carnage of trench warfare.

With the delicacy of a miniaturist and with an irony that is both witty and clear-eyed, Echenoz offers us an intimate epic: in the panorama of a clear blue sky, a bi-plane spirals suddenly into the ground; a piece of shrapnel shears the top off a man’s head as if it were a soft-boiled egg; we dawdle dreamily in a spring-scented clearing with a lonely shell-shocked soldier strolling innocently toward a firing squad ready to shoot him for desertion.

Ultimately, the grace notes of humanity in 1914 rise above the terrors of war in this beautifully crafted tale that Echenoz tells with discretion, precision, and love.

"The most distinctive voice of his generation and the master magician of the contemporary French novel." — The Washington Post

"Writing lives! [Echenoz’s] words are full of grace and surprises, and he has the ability to throw relationships among them just off-center enough to make the images or people they convey seem all the more compelling and fresh."— The New York Times Book Review

"Against a pungently evoked French landscape, figures both comical and grotesque move through a magic-lantern adventure story at a pace that keeps us turning the pages—though again and again we pause to savor the richness of Echenoz’s startling, crystalline observations. Never a dull moment!"— Lydia Davis

"Echenoz picks out the absurd nuances of pop culture and twists them into a contemporary detective book. . . . A hilarious read."— Publisher's Weekly

"Rarely has the difficult craft of storytelling been as well mastered."— The Times Literary Supplement

More info


Jean Echenoz won France’s prestigious Prix Goncourt for I’m Gone (The New Press). He is the author of six other novels available in English and the winner of numerous literary prizes, among them the Prix Médicis and the European Literature Jeopardy Prize. He lives in Paris.

Linda Coverdale’s most recent translation for The New Press was Jean Echenoz’s Lightning. She was the recipient of the French-American Foundation’s 2008 Translation Prize for her translation of Echenoz’s Ravel (The New Press). She lives in Brooklyn.

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
Sign in or register to post comments.

More new titles

new titles

The Elimination

From the internationally acclaimed director of S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine, a survivor’s autobiography that confronts the evils of the Khmer Rouge dictatorship.
new titles

Gaddafi's Harem

In Gaddafi’s Harem, an instant bestseller when it was published in France, Le Monde special correspondent Annick Cojean gives Soraya a voice, and adds to her story through interviews with other women who were abused by Gaddafi. The book is an astonishing portrait of the tragedies of dictatorship: how power gone unchecked can wreak havoc on the most intensely personal level. It is also a document of great significance to the new Libya, where there is a conspiracy of silence regarding Gaddafi’s sexual crimes and where the new regime desperately needs to confront the tragedies of its recent past.
new titles

Beyond Nature and Culture

Successor to Claude Lévi-Strauss at the Collège de France, Philippe Descola has become one of the most important anthropologists working today, and Beyond Nature and Culture has been a major influence in European intellectual life since its French publication in 2005. Here, finally, it is brought to English-language readers. At its heart is a question central to both anthropology and philosophy: what is the relationship between nature and culture?
1/3
MORE IN books
event

"Sous une autre peau " (Under another skin)

10/24/2014 6:30—7:30 PM
Albertine Books in French & English
Cultural Services of the French Embassy
972 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10075
event

French Literature in the Making: Maylis de Kerangal

Oct 27, 2014 | 7 PM
La Maison Française of NYU
New York University 16 Washington Mews, New York, NY
event

Note-by-Note Cooking: The Future of Food

Oct 27, 2014 | 6 PM
Columbia Maison Française, East Gallery, Buell Hall
515 West 116th St, NY