A Tristram Shandy–esque novella about failing memory and failed writing, from one of French Canada’s most exciting new voices.
A young, floundering author meets Robert ‘Baloney’ Lacerte, an older, marginal poet who seems to own nothing beyond his unwavering certainty. Over the course of several evenings, Lacerte recounts his unrelenting quest for poetry, which has taken him from Quebec’s Boreal forests to South America to East Montreal, where he seems poised to disappear without a trace. But as the blocked writer discovers, Lacerte might just be full of it.
‘[Bock’s] deeply original writing always seeks out the mot juste, then sculpts them into sentences that describe the slightest variations of human emotions in spectacular complexity, harnessing the power of form, rhythm, and sound. ’
—Mario Cloutier, La Presse (translated fromthe French)
‘Books are dangerous. They call into question the order of things, turn the world upside down to get a better sense of it and shake the dust off the lenses we look through. [. ..] No one can say where this book by Maxime Raymond Bock will take us. It’s an incandescent plea for the latent powers of literature, something like a necessity. ’
—Jérémy Laniel, Spirale (translated from the French)
Praise for Atavisms:
‘Crackles with the energy of a Queébécois folk song, impassioned and celebratory but also melancholy and cheekily ironic . .. As in BolaÃ±o’s work, narrative itself is often the subject; stories are folded within other stories and narrators are constantly asserting their presence . .. Like BolaÃ±o, Bock alternates between rage, sorrow, protest, and dark comedy, and the two writers share a sense of urgency –of writing against time as much as about it. ’
—Pasha Malla, The New Yorker
Maxime Raymond Bock was born in Montreal, where he currently lives. After pursuing sports and music and studying creative writing he published Atavismes (Le Quartanier, 2011), winner of the 2012 Prix Adrienne-Choquette, awarded to the year’s outstanding short story collection. His second book was a novella, Rosemont de profil (Le Quartanier, 2013). Atavismes was released in English translation by Dalkey Archive Press in 2015. Bock works in publishing.
‘Maxime Raymond Bock has created an endearing folk hero, or rather anti-hero… And although a distinctly Québécois flavour permeates the tale, seen, for example, in the French-Canadian poetic traditions that Robert, ever idealistic, tries to align himself with; Baloney is a novel charged with the type of broad, comic, and deeply human appeal that knows no borders. ’
'Bockâ€™s low-key prose swiftly changes registers, from nostalgic to ironic, from reverential to wry, allowing the narrator to express a broad spectrum of emotion in contrast to Robertâ€™s hardened stoicism. Pablo Straussâ€™ deft translation makes it easy to forget this is a translated work so the immense affection we come to feel for him reflects the immensity of Bockâ€™s talent. '
‘Yes, you’ll read Baloney quickly. But you’re highly unlikely to read it only once. ’
'â€¦ a deeply fulfilling exploration of what it means to write. '