Lincoln at the Bardo: discussions behind the scenes of death *** 1/2
The first novel by short story writer George Saunders is a real literary anomaly. Winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize, Lincoln at the Bardo is a confusing, destabilizing, offbeat text, whose unusual form is more like, at times, a play, and the narration breaks all conventions.
The author of Dix & nbsp; Décembre plays with literary codes and waltzes with different styles of writing according to the multiple voices that echo, in the shade of the graves of a cemetery in the American capital, in the dark hours of XIXth & nbsp; century.
As the civil war rages on, President Abraham Lincoln and his wife hold a sumptuous celebration that brings together all the famous personalities of their entourage. But the hosts are tormented by the state of health of their young son Willie, which is getting worse. The boy's fever comes to an end, and it is a demolished, unrecognizable man who goes to his son's grave to pour out his grief.
The wandering souls of the cemetery welcome the newcomer and hurry to testify to the good character of Willie. The boy should not stay with them for very long, they believe, since they are in a sort of purgatory where the children are just passing through.
Disjointed conversations ensue between lost souls, interspersed with the last exchanges between Lincoln and his son. Meanwhile, the war progresses in filigree, more and more real. And as the cost of human lives increases, new characters appear on death row.
Lincoln's prose to the Bardo is bold, one of a kind, perhaps even risky because of a style which, it must be admitted, is not easy; it recalls works like the vertiginous Umbrella, by Will & nbsp; Self, or the strange House of the tests, by Jason & nbsp; Hrivnak.
Both a satire on the afterlife and an account of the American Civil War, George Saunders' novel is above all a brilliant metaphor for mourning and life after death. If we manage to go beyond the unusual form of the novel, we plunge into a story tinged with irony and black humor that will appeal to curious readers to taste unique literary experiences.
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