From one of the most successful and original French novelists of the last decade comes Painting Time, a literary experience in art and perception. In 2007, Paula Karst begins her studies at the famous Institut de Peinture in Brussels. There she meets two friends, both enigmatic, resourceful, impulsive, and gifted. Together, the three weave a complex relationship that mirrors the interconnectedness of their artistic materials. Replicating the grain of wood, the wear of marble, or the protrusion on a tortoiseshell requires method, technique, talent … but also something else. Paula strives to understand what she’s painting, the “micro” that she is and the “macro” that she contemplates in art history. She chooses the painstaking demands of craftmanship over the abstraction of high art.
Paula’s apprenticeship is punctuated by hard work, sleepless nights, sore muscles, and saturnalian evenings. After completing her studies at the Institute, she continues to practise her art in Paris, in Moscow, and then in Italy at Cinécittà, on the sets of great films – dream factories! – as if rehearsing for the grand finale: Lascaux IV, a life-sized replica of the world’s most famous paleolithic cave art and a zenith of human cultural expression.
Painting Time is an exquisite and highly aesthetic coming-of-age novel by the author of Birth of a Bridge and Mend the Living (Talonbooks, 2014 and 2016). It uses a succession of skillfully crafted trompe-l’oeil techniques to explore a young woman’s art apprenticeship. Maylis de Kerangal, once more, offers the key to the enchanted materialism and sensualism of her writing.
Move forward in the dimness, get your bearings by sounds, by currents of air, walk along behind the metal framework, then head toward the lit-up area and come upon Paula, almost fragile, standing before the wall … Here there’s no interpretation, we are copyists, we erase ourselves before Lascaux.
Maylis de Kerangal is the author of several novels in French. Her earlier work, Naissance d’un pont (published in English as Birth of a Bridge), won le prix Médicis and le prix Franz Hessel in 2010. Her novella Tangente vers l’est was the winner of the 2012 Prix Landerneau. In 2014, her fifth novel, Réparer les vivants (published in English as Mend the Living), was published to wide acclaim, winning the Grand Prix RTL-Lire award and the student choice novel of the year from France Culture and Télèrama. de Kerangal lives in Paris, France.