cover image The Enchanted Clock

The Enchanted Clock

Julia Kristeva, trans. from the French by Armine Kotin Mortimer. Columbia Univ., $30 (304p) ISBN 978-0-231-18046-7

Kristeva’s marvelously strange novel about a woman captivated by an 18th-century artifact reads like a philosophical treatise wrapped in a love story with a little mystery mixed in. Nivi Delisle is a Parisian psychoanalyst and magazine editor fascinated by Claude-Siméon Passemant, engineer to King Louis XV and creator of a large four-faced clock that sits in the palace at Versailles and is designed to keep time until the year 9999. Nivi’s son suffers from a mysterious illness, and her lover Theo, an astrophysicist, travels the globe to observe the universe from different vantage points. As she walks the streets of Paris, Nivi often conjures an imagined Passemant while she meditates on the nature and passage of time. Though the plot eventually expands to include a mystery surrounding Theo’s ancestry, the suspicious death of one of Nivi’s coworkers, and the theft of Passemant’s clock from its home in Versailles, Nivi’s philosophical ruminations on the nature of time, space, and the conditions of human life reject a strictly linear reading of events, forcing the reader to wonder what exactly is happening, and when. Mortimer’s translation captures Kriteva’s sinuous representation of Nivi’s imagination. [em](Dec.) [/em]