... malevolent and disorienting tales ... Through Ramadan’s spare and exacting translation, Molinard presents a terrifying portrait of violence and mental illness. The reader is immersed entirely in the minds of her characters, seeing the world only through their warped gazes with no purchase on external reality. These surreal, claustrophobic stories bear similarities to the works of Samuel Beckett and Leonora Carrington, but Molinard writes in a voice that is entirely her own ... Her stories were not written for any reader. Their existence seems like a miracle. Upon encountering them, there is the sense that one is stealing a glimpse of something intensely private, unmediated, a soul in anguish.
The thirteen stories in Panics — rendered into beautiful, plainspoken English by translator Emma Ramadan, and by turns surreal, mesmerizing, and darkly unhinged —bear the mark of their writer’s painstaking process ... There is a powerful, elegiac quality to Molinard’s writing borne out by her characters’ deep sense of isolation and dispossession. Suspended between a literal beginning and a presumed end, her characters are propelled through desolate landscapes and empty cities. They struggle to see both ahead and behind them, and yet they keep looking to wrest control of their lives, to make their past, present, and future cohere with meaning ... Not all the stories end on such a clear note. Most are engrossing, some are riveting; they deserve to be republished and translated into English here for the first time, but on occasion I was nagged by a feeling that Molinard was not done with them, that they had been wrenched from her prematurely, as indeed they were. At times, I found myself losing the thread of the plot, or getting stuck in the author’s labyrinthine, groping constructions.
Not simply a patient returning the medical gaze, Molinard writes to and from the void. And this means writing with death and its sisters—panic, fear, bodily mutilation, futility, loss—whispering in her ear ... Moments of panic, suggests Molinard, bring us to the void, where we may glimpse death’s annihilation of self and other, reason and emotion. It is here that language fails, too. If death is the ultimate silence, the ultimate suspension of human reason, then the void becomes Molinard’s way of hollowing out original meanings and speaking into those empty spaces. Panic is not a sign of madness. For Molinard, panic is a way of making meaning outside of repressive institutions which, in claiming to keep death’s sisters at bay, only draw them closer.