The Flamethrowers. A short review in French.

I’m trying to improve my French — that is both my excuse and my apology in advance for my newest use of this blog that I update so rarely and unpredictably. Just to give myself an short, free-form way to work on my expository French, I decided to try and write mini-responses to all of the books I read this summer in French, translate them into English, and post both here. So far, I’ve probably read 8 or 9 books and I’ve managed to write about one. I doubt that I’ll catch up (I never do) but I may keep pace better in July and August than I did in June. Here’s the first one, a short review of Rachel Kushner’s newly published novel The Flamethrowers. Feel free to criticize/correct/be vocally scandalized by the quality of my French. I’d love the help (especially if you know how to correctly translate “salt flats”). Also, I know the English translations aren’t the prettiest either, but don’t let what I’ve written about this book deter you: Kushner’s novel is great and you should read it.

The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner

The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner

En Français:

The Flamethrowers est un roman sur la vitesse. Un roman sur le contrôle et ses limites. Sur le temps, et la célérité avec laquelle les moments de nos vies nous passent. On rencontre la protagoniste, Reno, dans les années 1970, quand elle voyage à moto aux marais salants en Utah, pour faire les épreuves de vitesse célèbres. En ce moment, elle est seule—une femme et sa moto—et bien que le roman monte sa vie à New York, son copain, Sandro, ses amis, qui sont pour la plupart les artistes, et un panorama d’Italie dans les années de plomb, c’est quand même un histoire de la solitude. On n’apprend jamais le vrai nom de Reno, surnommé par ses amis à New York City pour sa ville de naissance dans le sud-ouest. Il y a beaucoup de choses qu’on n’apprend jamais dans ce livre ; c’est un roman dans lequel les questions—les questions d’art, d’amour, d’essence, de la vérité—restent ouvertes. On n’a que les histoires, les représentations, et les objets d’art (de temps en temps, les trois sont un), tous les chemins indirects pour comprendre le monde et nous-mêmes.

Suivez la prose électrique de Rachel Kushner, les phrases qui craquent et scintillent avec l’énergie de la jeunesse, du désir, et de la frustration et la fascination de regarder le monde, de regarder vous dans le monde, et de se demander si vos choix changent votre destin. Ce roman n’est pas facile, mais c’est magnifique et il mérite votre effort.

En Anglais:

The Flamethrowers is a novel about speed. A novel about control and its limits. About time, and the swiftness with which the moments of our lives pass us by. We meet the protagonist, Reno, in the 1970s, as she’s traveling by motorcycle to the salt flats in Utah, to ride in the famous speed trials held there. In that moment, she is alone—a woman and her motorcycle—and even though the novel shows her life in New York, her boyfriend, Sandro, her friends who are mostly, like Sandro, artists, and a panorama of Italy during the Years of Lead, this is nevertheless, a book about solitude. We never learn Reno’s real name, just the nickname given to her by her friends in New York, the name of her hometown in the southwest. There are many things we never learn in this book; it’s a novel in which the questions—questions of art, of love, of meaning, of truth—remain open. We have only stories, performances, and art objects (sometimes the three all in one), all indirect paths for understanding the world and ourselves.

Follow Rachel Kushner’s electric prose, her sentences which crackle and flicker with the energy of youth, with desire, and with the frustration and fascination of watching the world, of watching yourself in the world, and of wondering if your choices change your destiny. This novel is not easy, but it’s magnificent and worth the effort.