“Stylistically inventive, heartfelt, and vivid, this shows a beguiling, talented author running on all cylinders.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
In Manuela Draeger’s poetic “post-exotic” novel, a group of young leftists trapped in a burning building after one year’s Bolcho Pride parade plunge back into their childhood memories, trading them with each other as their lives are engulfed in flames. They remember Granny Holgolde’s stories of the elephant Marta Ashkarot, who travels through the Bardo to find her home and be reincarnated again and again. They remember the Soviet folk singer Lyudmila Zykina and her melancholic, simple songs of unspeakable beauty. They remember the half-human birds Granny Holgolde called strange cormorants, the ones who knew how to live in fire, secrecy, and death, and as the flames grow they hope to become them.
Draeger, a heteronym for the acclaimed French writer Antoine Volodine, and a librarian in a dystopic prison camp, gives post-exoticism an element of tenderness, and a sense of nostalgia for children’s tales that is far less visible in the other post-exotic works. Eleven Sooty Dreams is her first book written for adults, a moving story of the constancy of brotherly, loving faithfulness.
“Draeger explores the power of dreams, the potential landscape of the afterlife, and a surreal world populated by characters who can transform, live forever, and alter their states of consciousness. . . . Translator J. T. Mahany channels the soot, despair, revolutionary zeal, and incorruptible love in his powerful translation, allowing anglophone readers to delve deeper into the unique post-exotic world of Volodine and Friends.” —Rachel Cordasco, World Literature Today
“With the calm strangeness of dreams, and humor deepened by a hint of melancholy, these wonderful stories fool around on the frontiers.” —Shelley Jackson, on In the Time of the Blue Ball
Eleven Sooty Dreams by Manuela Draeger
Open Letter 2021
Translated from the French by J. T. Mahany