Because I didn’t want to leave the Anita Blake books at the top of my blog, I hereby present you with an intriguing little volume.
The Facts of Winter by Paul Poissel (Translated by Paul La Farge)
This was one of the many books I picked up while working at Borders. When I was shelving, it was pretty much a case of ‘one for me, one for the shelf,’ etc. In other words, I didn’t know I needed it until I saw it. Turns out, I really did need this.
It is written in French by Paul Poissel with the English translations by Paul La Farge on the facing pages, so it’s good for those of you who can read French to get in some practice. For those of us who only pretend we can read French, it is good fun to see just how close our understanding of French truly is. Frankly, I didn’t do so poorly and it inspired me to sign up for French classes this fall. Er, so there. I don’t know where I was going with that.
Each page is a short depiction of a dream by various characters. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of plot or threads of connection keeping the dreams or characters tied together. Just like a real dream, I suppose. And the dreams range from the surreal to the, well, not-so-surreal, again just like a real dream. Some are charming, others are unsettling.
Almost a third of the book is taken up by La Farge’s afterword and here is where things get confusing, although delightfully so. In support of my upcoming argument, I will quote from the summary on the back of the book:
Paul Poissel was not born in 1848. As a young man, he did not set out to become the greatest Turkish architect in Paris. He did not fail to become the greatest Turkish architect in Paris. He never became a poet, or invented puzzles for an illustrated magazine. In 1904, he did not write this book, The Facts of Winter.
Paul La Farge has translated (from the original French) this collection of dreams — funny, haunting, enigmatic — all dreamed by people in and around Paris in 1881. La Farge’s afterword investigates the Facts’ creating, uncovering startling revelations, unknown truths, and new falsehoods.
My question is this: Is there really a Paul Poissel or did La Farge write it as though there were, including the rather in-depth and suspiciously fitting biography? The afterword is written partially in second person, present tense, putting the reader in La Farge’s shoes as he attempts to research Poissel’s background. Although he does have repeated interactions with a somewhat unwanted friend, there is a distinct sense of isolation and loneliness which, ironically or perhaps purposefully, mirrors Poissel’s mindset as he unknowingly prepares to write The Facts of Winter. Coincidence? I’m not so sure.
If Poissel and his Facts of Winter are in fact (no pun intended) a creation of La Farge’s, that adds a new layer to the book, one which would require a rereading of the dreams knowing the state of mind that, supposedly, went into them. Now I realize my question could be easily answered by a quick Google search or even by browsing the shelves at my local bookshop. But before I do that, I choose to wonder for a moment. To dream, even.
My rating: B+
Because I don’t want to appear a fool to anyone who’s read this and knows more than I do, I checked out my theory. I don’t want to say either way because I think it adds an interesting depth to the book, so, if you’re desperate to know, highlight the following space: Paul Poissel does not exist.