Feder: A Scenario

Nathanaël. Nightboat (SPD, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-937658-56-4
Writer and translator Nathanaël’s (The Middle Notebooks) latest is a slim, obscure “scenario” in which philosophical musings on architecture, the photographic image, and epistemology are layered atop a bare-bones narrative foundation. History, this elliptical book seems to imply, is too violent, chaotic, and vast to perceive in all its complexity; rather, the historical record is like a photograph left “to macerate too long in the developer... [a] thick amassment of detail, so intricate as to be indiscernible.” The enigmatic protagonist is Feder, “a man, who is no man, in a time, which is no time.” He is a creature of habit, marching up the same stairs to the same desk in a soulless architectural complex, where he works as a functionary assigned various vague tasks. Feder investigates an unidentified corpse languishing at the bottom of a stairwell, only to be eventually deemed guilty for some unspecified offense. The cipher-like Feder is at once vital to the smooth operation of the state mechanism and utterly replaceable, a body as expendable as the ones constantly washing ashore and onto the city streets. Thick, theory-heavy prose abounds—“The coincidence of reflectivity and transparency provokes an unresolvable somatic contradiction which is most apparent at a building’s flexion”—but Nathanaël’s idiosyncratic vision and patches of desert-dry absurdist humor add a pleasurable element to the reader’s book-length bafflement. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/25/2016
Release date: 09/01/2016
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