Praise for 1914:
"Echenoz's nod to the powerlessness of ordinary people caught in the first great modern cataclysm is a veritable monument to human dignity."
Gary Indiana, Bookforum
"This new novel from Jean Echenoz concentrates and synthesizes the quintessence of his writing."
Praise for Jean Echenoz:
"One of the best storytellers among the 'serious' novelists of his generation."
"Echenoz is one of the contemporary literature’s rare graceful magicians. . . . He might easily be located in the post-human environs of Michael Houellebecq [and] Haruki Murakami."
"A gentle tending to perversity links Echenoz to that other master of the perverse detail, Vladimir Nabokov."
Los Angeles Times
"Every word is perfectly placed; the writing is fluid . . . like a garment that fits perfectly even inside out..."
"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
"A writer at the top of his form . . . his style is, as usual, impeccable, full of finesse and promise."
"[O]ne of the best storytellers among the “serious” novelists of his generation. . . . Echenoz has shown that an attention to novelistic intrigue is by no means incompatible with an experimentalist impulse."
"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 pagesthough again and again we pause to savor the richness of Echenoz’s startling, crystalline observations. Never a dull moment!"
"A humanist rewriting Foucault with a satirist’s wit, Echenoz deftly and amusingly meditates on who we are and what defines us."
"Echenoz employs almost no dialogue and nothing that departs from known facts in this tiny miracle of a biographical novel, which begins dryly and builds to a shattering, but still contained and elegant, emotional climax, like a Ravel masterpiece."
"This is a wholly unsentimental portrait of a freaky inventor. Our sympathy is not required; all Echenoz requires is our attention, which he secures through his lapidary prose, buffed to a high gloss in this excellent translation."
"Echenoz picks out the absurd nuances of pop culture and twists them into a contemporary detective book. . . . A hilarious read."
"Rarely has the difficult craft of storytelling been as well mastered."
The Times Literary Supplement
"Jean Echenoz has a terrific sense of humor tinged with existential mischief. . . . An author in total control of his material."
"His realism is innocent, meticulous, ironic. . . . Seldom is a narrative so well constructed."
"[A] fascinating portrait of a musical genius, a strange and lonely character who was never at peace with himself."
"Vivid and extraordinary."
"Dazzling, meticulous, and somber."
Four young Frenchmen confront the grim reality of trench warfare in a spare, elliptical novel from Goncourt-winner Echenoz (Lightning, 2011, etc.). We see just what they are leaving behind in the idyllic scene that opens the book, as Anthime bicycles in the hills of the Vendée region, pausing to view a panorama of pastures and villages under the August sun. Then the church bells begin ringing, and he returns to the town square to learn that war has been declared. "It won't last longer than two weeks," says his intimidating brother Charles, but of course, readers know better. We follow Anthime and his pals Padioleau, Bossis and Arcenel to the barracks (where arrogant Charles commandeers the best-fitting uniform) and on parade past cheering citizens. They include Blanche, whose family runs the factory where Anthime and Charles work; both brothers are in love with her, but she prefers Charles. It's a nasty twist of fate that Blanche's successful attempt to get Charles transferred away from danger in the infantry results in his death in a plane crash, leaving her to bear his child alone and unmarried in January. Bogged down in the trench line that "had suddenly congealed…from Switzerland to the North Sea," Anthime is congratulated by his comrades on losing his arm to a piece of shrapnel; it's a "good wound" that will extricate him from the senseless bloodshed Echenoz matter-of-factly describes. His companions fare less well: Bossis is gruesomely killed, Arcenel shot for desertion and Padioleau is blinded by gas. As the author himself remarks, "[a]ll this has been described a thousand times," and Echenoz doesn't offer anything new in the way of character or insight to justify his retelling, though his restrained, elegant prose (nicely translated by Coverdale) remains a pleasure. A readable fictional introduction to the Great War for those who know nothing about it but inessential for anyone who's read Ernest Hemingway or John Roderigo Dos Passos.