The Annual Banquet of the Gravedigger's Guild
by Mathias Enard, translated by Frank Wynn
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Pub Date 4 Oct 2023 | Archive Date 27 Sep 2023
To research his thesis on contemporary agrarian life, anthropology student David Mazon moves from Paris to La Pierre-Saint-Christophe, a village in the marshlands of western France. Determined to capture the essence of rurality, the intrepid scholar shuttles around restlessly on his moped to interview local residents.
Unbeknownst to David, in these nondescript lands, once theatres of wars and revolutions, Death leads the dance. When an existence ends, 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. Only once a year do Death and the living observe a temporary truce, during a gargantuan three-day feast where gravediggers gorge themselves on food, libations and language, presided over by the village mayor.
Brimming with Mathias Enard’s characteristic wit and encyclopaedic brilliance, The Annual Banquet of the Gravedigger’s Guild is a riotous novel where the edges between past and present are constantly dissolving against a Rabelaisian backdrop of excess – and a paradoxically macabre paean to life’s inexhaustible richness.
‘Rarely has a book about death been so joyful.... With The Annual Banquet of the Gravediggers’ Guild, Mathias Enard offers up both the most excessive and the most consolatory novel written in a long time.’
— Florence Buchy, Le Monde
‘Although his focus here is on the Poitevin marshes, Mathias Enard remains above all an explorer who is peerless in his ability to join together places, cultures and epochs, always returning to love, to death and to what they can generate together.’
— Baptiste Liger, Lire
‘A baroque, Rabelaisian tale.... Mathias Enard’s pen and unbridled imagination lead the saraband, the bacchanalia, until we've had our fill.’
— Thierry Clermont, Le Figaro
‘A wonderfully unclassifiable novel. Contemporary, historical, comical, truculent, poetic, with elements of the diary, the fable, the short story... The Annual Banquet of the Gravediggers’ Guild is shot through with Mathias Enard’s deep love of literature.’
— Muriel Mingaud, Centre France
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 10 members
Sometimes the only cure for death is to live in spite of it. Such is the case in this novel, where revelry and mayhem play against the backdrop of the forever-turning wheel of life. An irreverent novel, which seeks to explore our relation to our own mortality, and the world around us.
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