FICTION

Black Forest

Deep Vellum. Nov. 2019. 80p. ISBN 9781944700904. $16; . f ;.
COPY ISBN
This English-language debut from French writer/filmmaker Mréjen opens with a nameless suicide: a man “decides he’s old enough” and replaces the disco ball with rope. The story, however, begins with a divorced father who determines that his children are lacking suitable New Year’s Eve party attire and stops by his ex-wife’s apartment for proper clothing. Upon arrival, two of the siblings discover their mother’s corpse in bed. The older daughter, who was at the hairdresser with the stepmother, must hear the tragic news separately. In the decades that follow, this daughter will reach, then surpass, her mother’s age at her death (38). Those moments of the daughter’s life—memories, observances, regrets, especially her impossible “what-if” daydreams with a mother-still-living—provide the skeletal narrative, interrupted by seemingly unrelated instances of additional deaths. For those who survive, death remains an ever-present, relentlessly recurring part of...well, life. In language that’s laconic and concise, Mréjen writes affectingly without emotional entanglement—“her aim is not to eulogize but to describe, to enumerate, to record,” writes Assef (making her full-length translation debut) in her elucidating ending commentary.
VERDICT While the novel is “certainly not for members of the cult of the carefree,” as Assef wryly notes, internationally-savvy seekers will undoubtedly be intrigued.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


RELATED 

Get connected. Join our global community of more than 200,000 librarians and educators.