cover image The Dark Library

The Dark Library

Cyrille Martinez, trans. from the French by Joseph Patrick Stancil. Coach House, $15.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-55245-407-7

French writer and librarian Martinez (The Sleepworker) explores the purpose of libraries amid sweeping societal changes in this whimsical novel. An unnamed narrator visits his unnamed country’s Great Library to find something new to read. Before arriving, the narrator explains the library’s four towers: one for novels, one for sciences and humanities, one for rare items, and a fourth for “unclassifiables,” the intention for which is “obscure... and their language bizarre.” The narrator happens upon a title called the Angry Young Book, which literally begins speaking to him and tells a story about the Historian, one of the most dedicated literary minds in the country who donated his entire collection to the library, and then disappears. The Angry Young Book also shares its frustration over a general decline in readership and bemoans the gimmicky methods the library’s management has been using to lure visitors. The dutiful, unnamed Red Librarian takes over the narration when a horde of “contractual readers” hired by the library appear and begin requesting titles at a breakneck pace as part of a secretive, and ultimately shocking, plan to save the library. Martinez tempers his satire with wit and quirky characters. This will delight fans of absurdist fiction. (Nov.)