Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781681375953
Pages: 256
Publication Date: December 7, 2021

The Flanders Road

by Claude Simon, translated from the French by Richard Howard, introduction by Jerry Carlson

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On a sunny day in May of 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. Simon himself was soon taken as a prisoner of war.
This is the primal scene to which Simon returns repeatedly in his fiction, and nowhere so powerfully as in The Flanders Road, his most famous novel and the one cited in awarding him the Nobel Prize. Here Simon's own first-person memories converge with those of the novel's central character, Georges, around the death of Captain de Reixach, to whom Georges is distantly related. Georges considers and reconsiders the circumstances and sense—or senselessness—of that death, first in the company of a fellow prisoner in prison camp; 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: Corrine's prewar affair with the jockey Iglisia, who would become the Captain's orderly; the possible suicide of an eighteenth-century ancestor, whose grim portrait loomed large in George's childhood home; George's learned father, helpless against barbarism among his books. 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 is one of the secret masters of the late twentieth-century novel. Simon was a touchstone to W. G. Sebald, among other notable writers, who learned from Simon's looping narrative technique and presents a portrait of the novelist in VertigoThe Flanders Road is the indispensable starting point for readers who wish to discover one of the most bracingly inventive and morally uncompromising novelists of our time.