cover image Astragal


Albertine Sarrazin, trans. from the French by Patsy Southgate. New Directions, $15.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2073-6

In her 1965 semi-autobiographical debut composed while in prison for a botched hold-up, Sarrazin conjures Anne, a young French girl of the streets, helpless but full of lust and dreams. Patti Smith, in her introduction, calls this book the "bone that fused fact and fiction," and this piece of bone assumes center stage when Anne jumps from a prison wall and shatters her ankle: "I've flown away, my dears! I flew and soared...for one second, which was long and good, a century." Thus begins her flight from incarceration to immobility. She is rescued by Julien, an ex con who makes love to her and moves her from his Mother's home to a roadhouse and finally to Paris. The ankle does not heal, nor does Anne's need for Julien. Readers will relish Anne's lack of symmetry; her smoking, drinking, whoring, and thieving through the Parisian streets of the 1950's. She contemplates her failures with a cat-like need to pick herself up and pretend nothing hurts, while limping through her days looking over her shoulder in fear of being caught. This is the poetry of a beautiful, misplaced mind; echoing freedom, recklessness, and daring. Sarrazin blends the sadness and joy of youth, exuding vibrant passion. (May)