‘Selected Essays’ (Vanguard Editions, 2022)
‘There has, so far, not been any literary form whose power is as great as that of the novel. The novel allows us to precisely connect, through emotion or reason, the seemingly most insignificant incidents of daily life and the thoughts, intuitions and dreams which first appear most distant from everyday language.’ Michel Butor
These essays are the first new translations of Butor’s work into English for more than 50 years and most of these essays are presented here in English for the first time. Vanguard Editions received the full backing and blessing of the Michel Butor estate, which is managed by his four daughters. A much-overlooked writer in the Anglophone world, this is your chance to discover one of the seminal French writers of the late 20th century. As Gabriel Josipovici says:
'Michel Butor, known in England only as one of the group of remarkable French novelists who came to the fore in the 1950s - Claude Simon, Marguerite Duras, Alain Robbe-Grillet and Robert Pinget were the others - was also one of the great literary critics of the twentieth century, whose essays rank with those of Eliot, Blanchot and Barthes. It is truly a cause for celebration that some of these are at last appearing in English, though typical of our times that it has taken a dedicated small press to make this happen.’
Michel Butor (1926-2016) was a French poet, novelist, teacher, essayist, art critic and translator. He studied philosophy at the Sorbonne and from 1951 to 1953 was a lecturer at the University of Manchester. He was the author of four novels, including L’Emploi du temps (1956; Passing Time), which won the Prix Fénéon, and La Modification (1957; Changing Track), which won the Prix Renaudot. He also wrote several books of non-fiction, including the essays Répertoires [I–V] (1960–1982), from which these essays are taken. In 2013, he was awarded the Grand Prix by the Académie Française for his work as one of the leading exponents of the nouveau roman, although Butor himself long resisted that association.
The translator, Mathilde Merouani, is a teacher from Toulouse, France. She holds the Agrégation in English and has just finished her postgraduate studies at École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, where she wrote a Master’s dissertation on otherness and the relationship to the other in the work of Kazuo Ishiguro.
Introduced by Simon During, Professorial Fellow, School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne. You can read Simon’s introduction here.
‘Fascinating - and for a novelist, extremely useful - on the novel, fiction, narrative, experience, furniture, pronouns, and more.’ Keith Ridgway, author of A Shock, shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize.
‘Butor makes light work of heavy themes, eschewing dogma and jargon despite the essays’ phenomenological tenor, in stark contrast with many of his contemporaries. Whether he is analyzing how a fictive locale may reconfigure the space in which a book is read, contending that travelling is the dominant theme of all literature or excavating old objects in the work of Balzac, his often exhilarating insights continue to come across as though he were charting terra incognita.’ Andrew Gallix, The Times Literary Supplement
You can read a highly perceptive review by Paul Fulcher here.
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