cover image Dying


René Belletto, trans. from the French by Alexander Hertich, Dalkey Archive, $13.95 paper (184p) ISBN 978-1-56478-593-0

Belletto (Machine) sets up a narrative hall of mirrors in this whimsically discursive treatment of the inevitabilities of life in two interrelated stories. A nameless narrator who has consigned himself to dying in Paris’s Rats and Vermin Hotel shares the convoluted story of how he got there. The story, of course, involves a woman: Queene, a grifter, has been paid to impersonate a woman who has been kidnapped. The scheme is that the narrator, after delivering the ransom, will realize he has been duped, and leave in hopeless anger. Instead, he falls madly in love with Queene and the two travel to Spain and indulge their passion for each other, though he conceals from her his discovery of a troubling manuscript that he believes tells his future. In the second story, the same nameless narrator develops an infatuation for a woman, Anita, so stifling that he resolves to fake his own death in order to get away from her. That Belletto doesn’t bother trying to form a coherent story line shouldn’t be surprising, as his interest here lies in exploring cerebral, linguistic, and philosophical turf. The takeaway is playful and absurd, with thought-provoking text taking the place of traditional narrative. (Oct.)