The Roving Shadows
Translated by Chris Turner
5 x 8 inches, 212pp. June 2012
ISBN : 9780857420091
Rs 450.00 (HB)
There are few if any voices more distinct in contemporary French literature than that of Pascal Quignard, a prolific writer of rare erudition and elegance. Essayist, critic, translator, novelist and musician, Quignard attempts here an ambitious amalgam of his many artistic styles in a fragmentary work that defies the idea of genre. And his daring was rewarded in 2002 when The Roving Shadows became the first non-novel in more than 60 years to win the Goncourt Prize, France’s most prestigious literary award.
The first book in Quignard’s Last Kingdom series, The Roving Shadows can be read as a long meditation on reading and writing that strives to situate these otherwise innocuous activities in a profound relationship to sex and death. Writing and reading can in fact be linked to our animal natures and artistic strivings, to primal forces and culturally persistent fascinations. With dexterity and inventiveness, Quignard weaves together historical anecdotes, folktales from the East and West, fragments of myth and speculative historical reconstructions. The whole, written in a musical style not far removed from that of Couperin, whose piano composition Les Ombres errantes lends the book its title, coheres into a work of literature that reverberates in the psyche long after one has laid it down.
The Roving Shadows is a rare and wondrous tour de force that cements Quignard’s reputation in contemporary world literature. Available now for the first time in English, this boldly adventurous work will find a new and welcoming audience.
Pascal Quignard (b. 1948) studied philosophy at the University of Nanterre between 1966 and 1968, the crucible of the Paris ‘events’ of May 1968. Two novels—Le Salon du Wurtemberg (1986) and Les Escaliers de Chambord (1989)—published by Gallimard (for whom he worked in various capacities until 1994) brought him to the attention of a wide audience. In 1991, he published Tous les Matins du Monde (All the World’s Mornings), which was filmed by Alain Corneau with Jean-Pierre Marielle and Gérard Depardieu in leading roles. This work reflected Quignard’s intense musical activity, which included the presidency of the Versailles International Festival of Baroque Opera and Theatre. In 2002, Quignard won France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, with the first volume of his Dernier Royaume (Last Kingdom) series, Les ombres errantes—a controversial choice, as it was the first work of non-fiction to win the prize. Quignard has more than 60 other titles to his name and is widely regarded as one of the foremost literary French writers today.
Chris Turner is a writer and translator who lives in Birmingham, England.