Bardo or Not Bardo

Written by Antoine Volodine | Translated by J.T. Mahany | Open Letter | April 12, 2016

Once again, Volodine has demonstrated his range and ambition, crafting a moving, hysterical work about transformations and the power of the book.

In each of these seven vignettes, someone dies and has to make his way through the Tibetan afterlife, also known as the Bardo, where souls wander for forty-nine days before being reborn with the help of the Book of the Dead.

Unfortunately, Volodine’s characters bungle their chances at enlightenment: the newly dead end up choosing to waste away their afterlife sleeping or to be reborn as an insignificant spider. The living aren’t much better off and make a mess of things in their own way, to the point of mistaking a Tibetan cookbook for the holy book.

Antoine Volodine is the primary pseudonym of a French writer who has published twenty books under this name, several of which are available in English translation. He also publishes under the names Lutz Bassmann and Manuela Draeger. Most of his works take place in a post-apocalyptic world where members of the “post-exoticism” writing movement have all been arrested as subversive elements. Together, these works constitute one of the most inventive, ambitious projects of contemporary writing.

“His quirky and eccentric narrative achieves quite staggering and electric effects. . . . Dazzling in its epic proportions and imaginative scope.” —The Nation

More information is available on the publisher's website.

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