cover image Zone


Mathias Énard, trans. from the French by Charlotte Mandell, Open Letter (Univ. of Nebraska, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (517p) ISBN 978-1-934824-26-9

Homeric in its scope and grandeur, remarkable in its detail, Énard's American debut is a screaming take on history, war, and violence. Francis Servain Mirkovic, the son of a French father and a Croatian mother, is a spy whose job it is to resell stolen secrets to their legitimate owners. His "Zone" is the Mediterranean. It is the early 21st century and he is on his last mission, taking a train from Milan to Rome under a fake name and revisiting, in a blistering stream-of-consciousness (periods are few and far between), his childhood, his career, and various women, among them Sashka, the Russian painter he plans to meet in Rome; Marianne, from his youth; and Stéphanie, his fellow agent. Weighing heavily on him is his time with the Croatian army during the "Yugoslav madness," where he witnessed and took part in atrocities. As Francis's train speeds along, his story picks up momentum, becoming nearly frantic by the final stretch. Mandell's translation of the extravagant text is stunning. (Dec.)