From Publishers Weekly
For this anthology of the literature of Sanjania, a fictitious North Atlantic island, Marche (Raymond and Hannah
) creates a Sanjanian dialect and embeds it in an authentically alien atmosphere, as in the two stories that represent 19th century pamphlet literature, "The Destruction of Marlyebone, the Pirate King" and "Pigeon Blackhat." The stories have commonplace plots, but their twisted diction is brilliant: "In that time, no sailor on Sanjan Island did not know of the Beacham house and Pigeon Blackhat, I say it to my shame." As Sanjania goes through an independence movement and postcolonial dictatorship during the 20th century, the writing styles reflect international fashion, from the Hemingway-influenced "clean writing" movement of Blessed Shirley to the supposed magical realism of covetown life in, for instance, "A Wedding in Restitution" (later made into a festsival-sweeping film). In keeping with the academic anthology structure, Marche provides a preface, an index of author biographies and a selection of Sanjanian criticism—all straight-faced, and all perfect. Marche's concept is fascinating, but Sanjanian literature gets noticably worse the further one gets into the 20th century—perhaps Marche's sly comment on declining national hopes, Sanjanian and otherwise. (Aug.)
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Marche's avant-garde first novel, Raymond and Hannah (2005), brilliantly recounted the struggles of a long-distance relationship in elegiac prose poetry. Marche raises the ante for experimental fiction even higher with this unique faux anthology of stories written by the leading authors of an imaginary island nation. Floating somewhere in the North Atlantic, cove-ringed Sanjania has weathered British colonialism, thrived on the bounty of sailors and privateers, and nurtured a predilection for pamphlet-bound fiction. In tales about cutthroat pirates, the isle's duplicitous aristocracy, and crime in its capital city, Port Hope, Marche unveils Sanjania's rich and vibrant history. Redeemed bordello madame Pigeon Blackhat looks back on her life of destitution and sinfulness. A sailor's wife endures virtual widowhood awaiting her long-missing husband. Marche's accomplished prose embraces a breathtaking variety of literary styles, from a fractured early Sanjanian dialect to a "recovered" Hemingway letter in the volume's concluding section, "Criticism." The consequent kaleidoscope of details about Sanjania renders it so vividly that you can barely resist consulting an atlasjust in case. Hays, Carl
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