A Novel

The Prix Goncourt winner turns his stylistic brilliance to the horrors of World War I in a novel published on the war’s one hundredth anniversary

“Dazzling, meticulous, and somber.” —Télérama

Longlisted, 2016 International DUBLIN Literary Award
Longlisted, Three Percent's 2015 Best Translated Book Award for Fiction

Jean Echenoz, considered by many to be the most distinguished and versatile living French novelist, turns his attention to the deathtrap of World War I in 1914. In it, five Frenchmen go off to war, two of them leaving behind a young woman who longs for their return. But the main character in this brilliant novel is the Great War itself. Echenoz, whose work has been compared to that of writers as diverse as Joseph Conrad and Laurence Sterne, leads us gently from a balmy summer day deep into the relentless—and, one hundred years later, still unthinkable—carnage of trench warfare.

With the delicacy of a miniaturist and with an irony that is both witty and clear-eyed, Echenoz offers us an intimate epic: in the panorama of a clear blue sky, a biplane spirals suddenly into the ground; a piece of shrapnel shears the top off a man’s head as if it were a soft-boiled egg; we dawdle dreamily in a spring-scented clearing with a lonely shell-shocked soldier strolling innocently toward a firing squad ready to shoot him for desertion.

Ultimately, the grace notes of humanity in 1914 rise above the terrors of war in this beautifully crafted tale that Echenoz tells with discretion, precision, and love.



“Echenoz’s nod to the powerlessness of ordinary people caught in the first great modern cataclysm is a veritable monument to human dignity.”
—Gary Indiana, Bookforum
“This new novel from Jean Echenoz concentrates and synthesizes the quintessence of his writing.”
Le Monde
“Echenoz memorably captures the grotesque facts of life in the trenches in economical prose that combines vivid sensory images with moments of biting dark humor.”
Library Journal
“Here is history compressed to the density of a poem.”
The New York Times Book Review
“Dazzling, meticulous, and somber.”
“[Echenoz’s] restrained, elegant prose (nicely translated by Coverdale) remains a pleasure.”
Kirkus Reviews

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The New York Times reviews 1914

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