cover image The Attraction of Things

The Attraction of Things

Roger Lewinter, trans. from the French by Rachel Careau. New Directions, $13.95 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2520-5

Lewinter’s serpentine “fragments of an oblique life” nominally recount three years in a man’s life, but they more closely resemble a work that his narrator wants to translate: “a text that, improvised on each occasion in a state of concentration, was a simple verbal process” for its writer, but for the reader becomes a “labyrinth from which to find the way out.” The narrator is an accomplished translator and avid collector of antique records, Kashmir shawls, and other objets d’art, and is increasingly solitary. His elderly father, his only living parent, is growing fragile: “Making up for twenty years in three weeks he suddenly became an old man.” An ex-girlfriend whose new book is finally finished mentions that she’s “getting married in two hours.” The narrator’s relationships with men afford him the understanding that gender is ultimately unimportant, “since it is negated for the body that in its fulfillment is escaped,” but these relationships have also proven transitory. In this ephemeral world, the flea market offers consolations and coincidences within which the narrator locates a deeper meaning. Finding an intricately woven shawl, or the old sound recording of a dancer in which only the music and “a sharp tap of the castanets sufficed to evoke in its brilliance the entirety of beauty,” he moves closer and closer to revelation. Lewinter’s sentences can span several pages, moving backward and forward through narrative time; through their possible frustration, readers too may approach enlightenment. (Nov.)