cover image Coda


René Belletto, trans. from the French by Alyson Waters, Univ. of Nebraska, $13.95 trade paper (88p) ISBN 978-0-8032-2441-4

This madcap, metaphysical mystery ably fits perpetual motion machines, immortality, and blood-sacrifice sects into 88 brisk and brainy pages. After narrator X's wife dies, he's left to raise their daughter, Anna. Things get strange when X discovers a mysterious box of clams in his refrigerator. It seems the clams went missing from a shipment intended for his neighbor, who is to host a large party. As X goes looking for answers, he meets Marthe, an uninvited guest who takes the place of Agathe, a childhood friend. X's liaisons culminate in a kidnapping, gunplay, and even more strange twists before everything—and, essentially, nothing—is resolved. Not a detail is wasted in this taut, cleverly conceived plot. The book is replete with doublings, references, and lingering remarks reminiscent of Cesar Aira, and is packed with bright ideas and memorable images. Elegant and smart, this novella leaves readers with questions that prove incredibly difficult to untangle. (Mar.)