PositiveThe Columbia JournalThe book makes fast work of closing the second-person doors which might lead to pedantic rhetoric, a story which might exclude the reader, or a story which might feel too precious. Precious, this book is not; the \'you\' speaks with a rancor and confidence which we have Swensen to thank for in the English translation, which glitters with humor ... In a poorly written book, a man writing from a woman’s perspective would be something to be upset about perhaps on Twitter. But this book, and its translation, are both so exquisitely done, exceedingly so. I am not indignant, I am not mad. I am happy for the questions this book raises. Its rejection of the traditional biography structure reflects the messy complexities of nonfiction writing in translation, and for that, I really like this very small book.
Thomas Clerc, Trans. by Jeffrey Zuckerman
PositiveColumbia JournalInterior, a novel by Thomas Clerc translated superbly from French by Jeffrey Zuckerman, is a room-by-room literary blueprint of a Parisian apartment owned by a middle-aged bachelor, whose name, in a twist of auto fictive imagination, is also Thomas. In the novel, there is little dialogue, no exposition—only objects, the memories associated with them, and the rooms in which they live. If there is plot, it is only hinted at by the doorbell, which rings occasionally throughout the novel, tantalizing the reader, threatening plot ... It may seem like the idea of a bored and cynical storyteller to make a novel out of an apartment’s contents. Interior, however, comes across more as dizzyingly indulgent, solipsistic, and self-assured, the musings of a fussy narrator who genuinely takes pleasure in the sound of his own voice. Thomas furnishes over 300 pages with anecdotes and his reactions to various pieces of furniture, his logic in design and decoration, the mental process behind picking a tablecloth and why he put the toilet paper there and not on a dispenser. (Thomas prefers to place the toilet paper atop the tank because it looks cruder there. And because it looks cruder there, it is more faithful to the meaning of toilet paper and its true purpose of wiping ass.) Decorative choice is tied to literary philosophy, says Thomas. To be healthy, one ought to be honest in both excrement and writing (don’t force it).