The Flanders Road (Paperback)

The Flanders Road By Claude Simon, Richard Howard (Translated by), Jerry W. Carlson (Introduction by) Cover Image

The Flanders Road (Paperback)

By Claude Simon, Richard Howard (Translated by), Jerry W. Carlson (Introduction by)


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By the winner of the 1985 Nobel Prize in Literature, a riveting, stylistically audacious modernist epic about the French cavalry's bloody face-off against German Panzer tanks during WWII.

On a sunny day in May 1940, the French army sent out the cavalry against the invading German army’s panzer tanks. Unsurprisingly, the French were routed. Twenty-six-year-old Claude Simon was among the French forces. As they retreated, he saw his captain shot off his horse by a German sniper.

This is the primal scene to which Simon returns repeatedly in his fiction and nowhere so powerfully as in his most famous novel The Flanders Road. Here Simon’s own memories overlap with those of his central character, Georges, whose captain, a distant relative, dies a similar death.

Georges reviews the circumstances and sense—or senselessness—of that death, first in the company of a fellow prisoner in a POW camp and then some years later in the course of an ever more erotically charged visit to the captain’s widow, Corinne.

As he does, other stories emerge: Corinne’s prewar affair with the jockey Iglésia, who would become the captain’s orderly; the possible suicide of an eighteenth-century ancestor, whose grim portrait loomed large in Georges’s childhood home; Georges’s learned father, whose books are no help against barbarism.

The great question throughout, the question that must be urgently asked even as it remains unanswerable, is whether fiction can confront and respond to the trauma of history.
Claude Simon (1913–2005) was born in Madagascar and, after his father was killed in the First World War, raised by his mother in southwestern France. He briefly attended Oxford and Cambridge, studied painting under André Lhote in Paris, and traveled to Barcelona during the Spanish Revolution of 1936. When the Second World War broke out, he fought in the French cavalry, was taken prisoner by the Germans shortly after the Battle of Sedan, and later, back in France, joined the Resistance. These wartime experiences informed many of his novels, including The Acacia, The Georgics, and The Flanders Road. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1985.
Richard Howard (1929–2022) was the author of numerous volumes of poetry and the translator of more than one hundred fifty titles from the French, including, for New York Review Books, Marc Fumaroli’s When the World Spoke French, Honoré de Balzac’s Unknown Masterpiece, and Guy de Maupassant’s Alien Hearts. He received a National Book Award for his translation of Les Fleurs du mal and a Pulitzer Prize for Untitled Subjects, a collection of poetry.
Jerry W. Carlson is a professor of literature and film at The City College of New York and the CUNY Graduate Center. As an independent producer, he worked with Claude Simon on a proposed film version of The Flanders Road.
Product Details ISBN: 9781681375953
ISBN-10: 1681375958
Publisher: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: July 12th, 2022
Pages: 208
Language: English
"To read this unforgettable book with complete attention is to get lost. . . in a way that not only reawakens one’s sense of the terror of war but also revitalizes one’s understanding of the possibilities of narrative." —Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

"[An] authoritative translation. . . Simon’s primary characteristic as a novelist – indeed that which made him an exemplary Nouveau Romancier and a rare jewel among Nobel Laureates when he received his prize in 1985 – was his desire to find and create other narrative shapes, ones which frustrated the closures of life and death, comedy and tragedy. Ones which allowed him to linger among the difficulties and the traps of storytelling as such." —Ben Libman, New Left Review’s Sidecar

“The ferocious drive of the prose, the images of love and war tossed up like spray out of the struggling rush and turmoil of words, is stupendous.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Simon [is] a ‘writer’s writer,’ questioning language’s utility as he employs it to breathtaking effect.” —Publishers Weekly