The Annual Banquet of the Gravediggers’ Guild
Mathias Énard, in conversation with Laurence Marie. Introduction by Fanny Guex
Mathias Énard will discuss his writing with a focus on Le Banquet annuel de la confrérie des fossoyeurs, just published in English as The Annual Banquet of The Gravediggers’ Guild, in a translation by Frank Wyne published by New Directions.
In this novel, anthropology student David Mazon moves from Paris to La Pierre-Saint-Christophe, a village in the marshlands of western France, to research his thesis on contemporary agrarian life. Determined to understand the essence of the local culture, the intrepid young scholar scurries around restlessly on his moped to interview residents. But what David doesn’t yet know is that here, in this seemingly ordinary place, once the stage for wars and revolutions, Death leads a dance: when one thing perishes, the Wheel of Life recycles its soul and hurls it back into the world as microbe, human, or wild animal, sometimes in the past, sometimes in the future. And once a year, Death and the living observe a temporary truce during a gargantuan three-day feast where gravediggers gorge themselves on food, drink, and language… Brimming with Mathias Énard’s characteristic wit and encyclopedic brilliance, The Annual Banquet of the Gravediggers’ Guild is a riotous novel where the edges between past and present are constantly dissolving against a Rabelaisian backdrop of excess.
Check out the New York Times review of the book here.
Mathias Énard is the author of Compass (winner of the Prix Goncourt, the Leipzig Prize, and the Premio von Rezzori, and shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize), Zone, and Street of Thieves–as well as being a translator from Persian and Arabic.
Laurence Marie is a Lecturer in the Department of French at Columbia. A specialist of 18th century literature, theater and the arts, and the history of emotions, she is the author of Inventer l’acteur. Emotions et spectacle dans l’Europe des Lumières and of two forthcoming books: a new Folio Classique (Gallimard) edition of Diderot’s Paradox of Acting and Les paradoxes du comédien. Cinquante regards sur le métier d’acteur (Gallimard, Hors série littérature).