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The Passion of Martin Fissel-Brandt [Paperback]

Christian Gailly , Brian Evenson , Melanie Kemp

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Book Description

March 1 2002
Did Martin Fissel-Brandt murder his wife? His cat accuses him of foul play, as does his lover, Anna, who after his wife's death leaves both Martin and France for Asia. Later, while on vacation, Martin coincidentally finds an undelivered letter addressed to the apartment where he and Anna used to meet. His discovery prompts the decision to find her again. He transfers his job to Asia, where he is immediately caught up in a local rebellion. His search for Anna takes him deeper into the violent unrest. Is it now too late for them? Is Martin Fissel-Brandt hallucinating, or is it his destiny to find Anna again under these circumstances?

Christian Gailly is often cited for his experimental approach to narrative, and his work is characterized by a fascination with coincidence and often fantastic chance encounters or near encounters. Born in Paris to a working-class family, Gailly's education was cut short at the age of fifteen. He worked as a jazz saxophonist, taught himself the literature of psychoanalysis, and while in his forties, began his literary career. The Passion of Martin Fissel-Brandt is the first of Gailly's novels to be translated into English.

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From Publishers Weekly

Experimental minimalism comes with a decidedly Gallic twist in this brief romantic fiction, a noteworthy book that marks the first English translation of an author who has built a reputation in France based on eight novels. Here he deals with the odd fate of Martin Fissel-Brandt, the middle-aged protagonist who begins a quest for his former lover, Anna Posso, after he finds a hidden letter addressed to the apartment where they used to meet. The author's prose flits here, there and everywhere over the course of incredibly short chapters, introducing coincidences, plot twists and unexplained characters with barely a whiff of logic. The more intriguing turns include Martin being whisked away to Asia by the demands of his profession to quell a local rebellion, along with a seemingly random attack on him and some of his co-workers at a construction site. As for the erstwhile romance, the normal pining is replaced by some diabolical hints that Martin may in fact have murdered Anna as well as several other former girlfriends, with one of those hints entertainingly delivered by a cat. Despite the absence of conventional narration, Gailly's prose has a certain whimsical rhythm and a unique sense of rhyme and reason, which makes reading this novel not unlike perusing the script of a Bu¤uel film. Gailly's work is definitely an acquired taste and demands a suspension of linear thinking, but readers who like to be surprised won't get shortchanged here.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


"An excellent introduction to a very entertaining writer." -- Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2002

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars in the line of Beckett, Duras, Ernaux ... July 5 2007
By M. J. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Gailly writes bare-bones narrative - non-sequential with broken syntax. But do read the book before reading the introduction - the literary school and structural devices are not required to enjoy the book.

The narrator gives the story in third person - moving from the end of vacation to return of hidden letter to workers' strike to Asia road construction to civil unrest to reunion with love. The tone of the narrator varies from neutral observer to intimate knowledge of the inner thoughts of characters. At times the disjointed prose leans towards stream of consciousness; at other times, the punctuation severs relationships between elements of an otherwise normal sentence; still other times the disrupted syntax reveals pure perception without mental overlays of meaning.

Through it all, Gailly manages to create narrative tension in the reader - you want to know what happened/will happen. You want to understand more about the characters. In short, it is a very literary good read of a mystery-romance.

An example of the prose: "A name like this. Or like that. Sounded like this. She made some noises with her mouth while moving her fingers, then: I wonder, she said, what family of instruments, what coupling, or marriage, could make that sound." Or "Brought it to his lips. And. With a stiff movement of his neck. As if caught in a vice. He emptied it. Put it down. Then. A pause."

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