cover image Phototaxis


Olivia Tapiero, trans. from the French by Kit Schluter. Nightboat, $15.95 trade paper (122p) ISBN 978-1-64-362111-1

Canadian writer Tapiero’s narratively opaque but politically acute English-language debut features a dystopian city where the streets and parks are piled with animal flesh. Zev, a proponent of Max Stirner’s anarchism, speaks to a group of followers about their withering world during meetings on the roof of a hotel. Then, he disappears, leaving two of his disciples directionless: Théo, a dejected pianist who can’t escape his fear of mediocrity, and Narr, the observant “strategist” who, as a woman and an immigrant, deals with social alienation. After Théo jumps to his death in despair, Narr reflects on one of Zev’s lessons about paying respect to the animals he hunts (“a form of recognition for life turned into meat”). Tapiero builds a tableau of catastrophe with references to historical deaths such as the “falling man” of the 9/11 attacks; Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, who was fatally tased at Customs in Vancouver; and Omayra Sánchez, who died after a volcano eruption in Colombia, and fuses it all with a provocative interpretation of the myth of Icarus that portrays his descent as being of his own volition and a way to leave a crumbled world behind. It’s a confrontational but eminently quotable text (“Desire is one form of suicide,” Théo thinks of his audience). This cyclone of art, destruction, and nonconformity impresses. (Oct.)