cover image Screwball


Anne Kawala, trans. from the French by Kit Schluter. Canarium, $14 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-0-9969827-7-1

“Everything is possible... but it’s a matter of knowing how to react, of knowing that everything is possible, and reacting in the best possible way,” writes French experimentalist Kawala in this, her first translation to English, a prose narrative continually interrupted by charts, collages, maps, and poetic fragments in various languages. Kawala’s style is circuitous but inquisitive; in the tension between perseverance and crisis, she spins a fascinating if unwieldy tale of a “huntress-gatheress” and her two children on an unexplained journey via ice floe from Greenland to China. When an Arctic volcanic eruption sends the small crew spiraling across the Atlantic to Nicaragua, it separates the huntress-gatheress from the children and splits the narrative between their journeys. The human systems they encounter, like the natural ones, are designed to assimilate them rather than support their particular disruptions: “Her presence, known, nothing changes in anyone’s activities.” At the narrative’s end, a notebook with notations and essays on gender difference takes its place. It’s a provocative move, destabilizing the simplicity of the fable and asking a reader to revisit the role of gender within it. That narrative, however, tends to overwhelm the fragmentary interruptions, and readers may wish that there was more here to support those interruptions’ theoretical work. (Apr.)