We Monks and Soldiers
by Lutz Bassmann
translated by Jordan Stump
(University of Nebraska Press, 2012)
From one of the most original French writers of our day comes a mysterious, prismatic, and at times profoundly sad reflection on humanity in its darker moments—one of which may very well be our own. In a collection of fictions that blur distinctions between dreaming and waking reality, Lutz Bassmann sets off a series of echoes—the “entrevoutes” that conduct us from one world to another in a journey as viscerally powerful as it is intellectually heady.
While humanity seems to be fading around them, the members of a shadowy organization are doing their inadequate best to assist those experiencing their last moments. From a soldier-monk exorcising what seem to be spirits (but are they?) from an abandoned house, to a spy executing a mission whose meaning eludes him, to characters exploring cells, wandering through ruins, confronting political dissent and persecution, encountering—perhaps—the spirits once exorcised, these stories conduct us through a world at once ambiguous and sharply observed. This remarkable work, in Jordan Stump’s superb translation, offers readers a thrilling entry into Bassmann’s numinous world.
About the author:
Lutz Bassmann belongs to a community of imaginary authors invented, championed, and literarily realized by Antoine Volodine, a French writer of Slavic origins born in 1950. Volodine’s many celebrated, category-defying works include the award-winning Minor Angels (Nebraska, 2004), which blends science fiction, Tibetan myth, a ludic approach to writing, and a profound humanistic idealism. Jordan Stump is a professor of French at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He is the author of The Other Book (Nebraska, 2011), has translated numerous texts, including Minor Angels, and was awarded the French-American Foundation’s translation prize.
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