Fictional ‘true crime’ narrative set in Manchester
Genre(s): Fiction, In Translation
In 2007, Paula Karst begins her studies at the famous Institut de Peinture in Brussels. There she meets two friends, both enigmatic, resourceful, impulsive, and gifted. Together, the three weave a complex relationship that mirrors the interconnectedness of their artistic materials. Replicating the grain of wood, the wear of marble, or the protrusion on a tortoiseshell requires method, technique, talent … but also something else. Paula strives to understand what she’s painting, the “micro” that she is and the “macro” that she contemplates in art history. She chooses the painstaking demands of craftmanship over the abstraction of high art.
Paula’s apprenticeship is punctuated by hard work, sleepless nights, sore muscles, and saturnalian evenings. After completing her studies at the Institute, she continues to practise her art in Paris, in Moscow, and then in Italy at Cinécittà, on the sets of great films – dream factories! – as if rehearsing for the grand finale: Lascaux IV, a life-sized replica of the world’s most famous paleolithic cave art and a zenith of human cultural expression.
This exquisite and highly aesthetic coming-of-age novel by the author of Birth of a Bridge and Mend the Living uses a succession of trompe-l’oeil techniques to explore a young woman’s art apprenticeship. Maylis de Kerangal offers the key to the enchanted materialism of her writing.
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