The Annual Banquet of the Gravediggers' Guild

Mathias Énard


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Fitzcarraldo Editions
4 October 2023
ISBN: 9781804270592
496 pages

From the publisher

Translated by Frank Wynne

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 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. Brimming with Mathias Enard’s characteristic wit and encyclopaedic 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 – and a paradoxically macabre paean to life’s richness.

‘Recklessly, omnisciently, dazzlingly, Mathias Enard over the last twenty years has been inventing one of the most visionary oeuvres in French literature. In this book, by excavating a remote rural corner and inhabiting in turn every living thing there, man, woman and beast, he gives us the gift of deep verticality, where a sentence spools into other sentences, other stories, other epochs, and resolves into a history of Europe.’
— Jeet Thayil, author of Names of the Women

‘Mathias Enard is one of the best contemporary French writers, and his works – ambitious, erudite, multifaceted, surprising and unconventional – are always worth reading, because they always strike a perfect balance between the best that literature can offer: pleasure and knowledge.’
— Javier Cercas, author of The Impostor

‘Every novel by Mathias Enard reminds me of the reasons why I read fiction. He is ambitious, erudite, full of life, and a wonderful stylist to boot. He is one of the great novelists of our time.’
— Juan Gabriel Vásquez, author of The Shape of the Ruins

‘Mathias Enard is an immensely ambitious writer.... Fortunately, his ambition is matched by an equally extraordinary talent. His elegant prose ... is admirably precise and intellectually limpid – he makes no concessions.’
— Alberto Manguel, El País

‘All of Enard’s books share the hope of transposing prose into the empyrean of pure sound, where words can never correspond to stable meanings. He’s the composer of a discomposing age.’ 
— Joshua Cohen, New York Times 

‘A novelist like Enard feels particularly necessary right now, though to say this may actually be to undersell his work. He is not a polemicist but an artist, one whose novels will always have something to say to us.’ 
— Christopher Beha, Harper’s

‘The most brazenly lapel-grabbing French writer since Michel Houellebecq.’ 
— Leo Robson, New Statesman 

‘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