Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

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Winner of the Prix Renaudot

Translated by Linda Asher

Elisabeth, a pensive, memory-laden science professional in a long and tender marriage, has barely befriended their touching younger neighbor when in a fit of blind pain over a scornful scolding the man kills his beloved and appealing wife. Elisabeth is drawn, out of sympathy, to help her sad friend cover up his crime. Her account of her unaccountable impulse moves into a quick-moving, canny police procedural—humor and sorrow, life. An absorbing tale from the skilled hand of playwright/novelist Yasmina Reza.

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“[I]n Reza’s work, characters have always been inclined to go too far, to act out the impulses most of us keep in check. . . . Reza is the bard of bourgeois, neoliberal angst.”

“The lightness of touch bordering on comedy that [Yasmina Reza] brings to an otherwise dark tale is a reminder of her strengths as a dramatic writer, and it all adds up to a strange and memorable short book.”

Babylon, translated from the French by Linda Asher, gives away its story early and belongs to that very popular category of books that use techniques of the thriller and mystery genre in what is essentially a character study. A whydunit, rather than a whodunit, so to speak. In this, it is reminiscent in some ways of Leïla Slimani’s The Perfect Nanny ... Reza attempts to elevate what her characters experience in their limited domestic sphere to a universal tale about how certain fears unite and drive us toward inexplicable acts. It is this push for universality that makes the novel hypnotic, often poetic.”

“It is Ms. Reza’s dissection of Elizabeth’s malaise that is the real detective work here, and she renders it in a taut, unsparing prose style that is both exacting and unsettling. . . . There’s no doubting Ms. Reza’s powers as a novelist. At her best, she can remind one of no less than Albert Camus and Joan Didion (those bards of 20th-century despair). Writers may endure more than a twinge of envy at how effortlessly the author flits from successful playwriting to prose. It just ain’t fair. But then — as the protagonist of this darkly compelling novel would have commented — what is?”

“French novelist and playwright Yasmina Reza has a knack for taking a small moment and using it to blow her characters' worlds to smithereens. ... Reza deftly creates a woman who can recount her past, but barely explain it, who surmises that she is unhappy but cannot say how and where she went wrong ... Reza doesn't craft a clear-cut narrative of the how and the why of the characters' actions, but instead reveals the swirling mess of memory and fear that drives them forward.”

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Playwright and novelist Yasmina Reza's work has been translated into more than thirty-five languages. Her play Art was the first non-English language play to win a Tony Award, Conversations After a Burial, The Unexpected Man, and Life X 3 have all been award-winning critical and commercial successes internationally, and God of Carnage, which also won a Tony Award, was adapted for film by Roman Polanski. A new play, Bella Figura, premiered in Germany in May 2015. Her fiction includes Hammerklavier, Desolation, and Adam Haberberg. Reza lives in Paris.