The second novel from the acclaimed author of The Meursault Investigation pays homage to the essential need for fiction and to the insolent freedom afforded by an adopted language in a fable, parable, and confession.
... an exhilarating novel, a saga, a journey through literature, language, and postcolonialism. As the spiraling and lyrical prose proceeds, it becomes clear that Kamel Daoud did not intend for this novel to be straightforward. Daoud—in Ramadan’s exquisite translation—makes the reader work, immersing them deep into Zabor’s plagued mind and troubled thoughts on language, literature, and his gift. I can only imagine the huge challenge that Ramadan has conquered in translating this incredibly lyrical prose that jumps back and forth between times, flits between thoughts, and sits upon layers and layers of metaphor. Her translation is impeccable, allowing the reader to easily immerse themselves into Zabor’s strange world ... At times, this ambitious novel does get close to doing 'too much,' the metaphors that Daoud weaves almost becoming too intertwined; however, he never quite crosses this line, consistently bringing his prose back down to earth when necessary. This is a book of immersive qualities, the dictum of compulsive reading mirroring Zabor’s compulsive writing—a magical ode to the potentialities of literature as well as a powerful, yet subtle confrontation of colonialism.
Zabor thinks that he possesses the power to save the lives of the dying by furiously writing stories about them ... Confidently translated from the French by Emma Ramadan, it is a somewhat frantic, rambling thing, allowing full vent to Zabor’s 'predilection for digressions.' But if it lacks the compression of Mr. Daoud’s 2013 novel ...it is animated by the same zealous faith in the messianic potential of narrative.
Kamel Daoud’s second novel translated by Emma Ramadan, is maniacally concerned with questions of storytelling, meaning, and mortality ... Zabor is both blessed and cursed by his ability to save any person’s life by simply writing about that person ... Zabor’s notebooks might be filled with the level of mundane detail that practitioners like Marcel Proust and Karl Ove Knausgaard are famous for, with the noteworthy exception that Zabor writes about others, not himself.