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Jean-christophe Valtat

A terrific storyteller, Valtat mixes humor and poetry, romance and politics into surprising books. His steampunk adventure series The Mysteries of New Venice is not only science fiction, but also thriller, fantasy, and Arctic adventure!


Jean Christophe Valtat was born in 1968.

His two novels written in English, Aurorarama (2010) and Luminous Chaos (to be published on October 15, 2013) are part of Melville House’s The Mysteries of New Venice series: the first book has received wide acclaim.

In French, he has written a book of short stories, Album, and two novels, Exes, and 03 (published in English by FSG, selected by celebrated literary critic James Wood as one of the best books of 2010).

J.C. Valtat won the Fondation Beaumarchais-France Culture-Villa Médicis prize for the radio play La vie inimitable (2000). He has also written and co-directed the movie Augustine (2003). Educated at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, he received his Ph.D in Comparative Literature from Paris III, Sorbonne-Nouvelle in 2000 and he is currently Associate Professor in Comparative Literature in the Blaise Pascal University in Clermont-Ferrand. His field of research includes romantic, modern and contemporary literature and the relationships between literature, science, technology and the media.


Jean-Christophe Valtat is fluent in English.

He is happy to give talks on topics within his field of research, including his approach to comparing French and Anglo-American literary traditions.

He can speak about Jules Verne and his impact on the Anglo-Saxon world as the first “global” writer. He can also speak on Proust’s relationship to science and technology (“Proust’s Time Machine”), as well as French “steampunk”.

He can especially give lectures about his work: "Visionary writing and the new technologies -1800-1900". 


The Mysteries of New Venice Series:

Luminous Chaos, Melville Publishing House, October 15, 2013.
Aurorarama, Melville Publishing House, August 2010.
03, Farrar Strauss & Giroux, June 2010 (Gallimard, 2005).


Luminous Chaos, : The Mysteries of New Venice 2, Melville Publishing House, October 15, 2013.

It's 1907 in the icily beautiful New Venice, and the hero of the city's liberation, Brentford Orsini, has been deposed by his arch-rival -- who immediately sends Brentford and his friends on a dangerous diplomatic mission to Paris.

So, Brentford recruits his old friend and louche counterpart, Gabriel d'Allier, underground chanteuse and suffragette Lillian Lake, and the mysterious Blankbate--former Foreign Legionnaire and leader of the Scavengers, the city's garbage collecting cult--and others, for the mission.

But their mode of transportation--the untested "transaerian psychomotive"--proves faulty and they find themselves transported back in time to Paris 1895 ... before New Venice even existed. What's more, it's a Paris experiencing an unprecedented and crushingly harsh winter.

They soon find themselves involved with some of the city's seediest, most fascinating inhabitants. But between attending soirees at Mallarmé's house, drinking absinthe with Proust, trying to wrestle secrets out of mesmerists, and making fun of the newly-constructed Eiffel Tower, they also find that Paris is a city full of intrigue, suspicion, and danger.

For example, are the anarchists they encounter who are plotting to bomb the still-under construction Sacre Coeur church also the future founders of New Venice? And why are they trying to kill them?

And, as Luminous Chaos turns into another lush adventure told in glorious prose rich in historical allusion, there's the biggest question of them all: How will they ever get home?

Aurorarama: The Mysteries of New Venice 1, Melville Publishing House, 2010
More info: http://www.mhpbooks.com/books/aurorarama/


1908. New Venice—”the pearl of the Arctic”—a place of ice palaces and pneumatic tubes, of beautifully ornate carriage-sleds and elegant Victorian garb, of long nights and vistas of ice. But as the city prepares for spring, it feels more like qaartsiluni—“the time when something is about to explode in the dark.” A startling, seductive literary novel that entwines suspense, science fiction, adventure, romance and history into an intoxicating new genre.


03, Farrar Strauss & Giroux, 2010


A precocious teenager in a French suburb finds himself powerfully, troublingly drawn to the girl he sees every day on the way to school. As he watches and thinks about her, his daydreams—full of lyrics from Joy Division and the Smiths, fairy tales, Flowers for Algernon, sexual desire and fear, loneliness, rage for escape, impatience to grow up—reveal an entire adolescence. This fleeting erotic obsession, remembered years later, blossoms into a meditation on what it means to be a smart kid, what it means to be dumb, and what it means to be in love with another person.


Praise for 03:
"03 is about a teenager who falls in love with a girl he sees every morning on his way to school. Nothing else happens in the book. It’s magic." —Lorin Stein, Notesfromtheunderground.com

“[Valtat’s] hypersensitive high-school student listens to the Cure’s Pornography but speaks like someone out of Proust . . .Valtat manages to re-create the exact unhappiness of lost youth.” —Les Inrockuptibles

Praise for Aurorama:

Selected for Io9's 'Ten recent science fiction books that make great gifts'

"He is funny, intelligent, lyrically precise, and frequently self-aware." —JAMES WOOD, The New Yorker

"Aurorarama is a magnificent achievement, balancing serious intent with arch humour. It's also beautifully stylish, replete with inventive steampunk iconography and fantastical characters in a stunning polar setting." —The Guardian

"Aurorarama mesmerizes." —Bookforum

"The novel glides on silver skates from the surreal to the absurd to the languorously decadent ... New Venice is irresistible." —LAURA MILLER, Salon

"Aurorarama is perhaps what Jules Verne would write if woken from the dead and offered a dose of mushrooms. An enjoyable amalgam of thriller, fantasy, and polar adventure, topped off with a sprinkling of anarchist intrigue." —The National

"Marvelous, perfect, and perfectly marvelous!... I can hardly wait for its sequels." —PAUL DI FILIPPO, The Barnes and Noble Review

"The most noteworthy contribution to steampunk in almost two decades." —Pornokitsch

"Combining Arctic adventure with Victorian fantasy, this page-turner is as sparkling and colorful as the northern lights." —The San Francisco Chronicle

"Aurorarama entrances and delights. You could spend years picking apart the sly references and the particular myths, poems, novels and songs that inspired Valtat, or you can simply enjoy it for the experience." —JESSA CRISPIN, NPR

"Aurorarama tells a tale of political intrigue (secret police! Eskimos! Prisoner-esque hovering airship!) with some truly lyrical prose." —io9

"A terrific storyteller, Valtat mixes humor and poetry, romance and politics into a surprisingly thoughtful page-turner about social revolution." —MATTHEW JAKUBOWSKI, Paste Magazine

Jean-Christophe Valtat (PDF)