cover image Faraway the Southern Sky

Faraway the Southern Sky

Joseph Andras, trans. from the French by Simon Leser. Verso, $17.95 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-80429-171-9

In this eloquent and impassioned novella, Andras (Tomorrow They Won’t Dare to Murder Us) charts a course through contemporary Paris in the footsteps of Vietnamese leader Hô Chí Minh, who lived in the French capital in the 1910s and ’20s, and reflects on the nature of revolutionary movements. Andras affectionately and romantically describes Hô as a “moneyless vagabond” who “changed names like he changed shirts, sweating in the hope, no less, of making us all equal at last.” Under the name Nguyên Tât Thanh, he left his home in the French protectorate of Annam and joined a socialist organization in Paris. As he began writing about Indochina for socialist and communist publications, he quickly gained the attention of his comrades—as well as of the French police, who began to surveil his every move. While visiting sites where Nguyên lived and worked, Andras renders the city’s daily rhythms (“A restaurant sign flickers; wheels toing and froing; the city growls, fawn gray, while the gutter scoffs down water”) and reflects on the ways in which revolutionary idealism is often marred by violence (“Nothing casts a shadow over you quite like fratricidal blood”). Along the way, his flâneur’s chronicle builds to a richly layered and emotionally honest reckoning with the promises and failures of a great leader. Andras’s meditation strikes a nerve. (May)