Solo Viola

A Post-Exotic Novel

2021
Author:

Antoine Volodine
Translated by Lia Swope Mitchell
Foreword by Lionel Ruffel

A harrowing early novel by one of France’s most unusual contemporary writers

In one of his first forays into post-exoticism, Antoine Volodine takes the reader into a fictional world where a variety of characters collide. All are trying to survive in an absurd and hostile environment of authoritarian spectacle, at the mercy of a tyrannical buffoon, and seeking the strange counterbalance of hope in a viola player, whose stunning music might save them all.

Antoine Volodine's Solo Viola is a deft evisceration of fascism, seen through another lens and dislocated to a fantastical world. Volodine, here and elsewhere in his hugely important work, shows how the political and the fantastical can be intertwined in a way that allows a powerful reevaluation to occur—a reevaluation that feels all too starkly relevant to twenty-first-century America.

Brian Evenson, author of Song for the Unraveling of the World

At once humorous and horrifying, Solo Viola is one of Antoine Volodine’s first forays into post-exoticism. He takes the reader into a fictional world where a variety of characters collide: three prisoners just released from jail, a band of circus performers, a string quartet, a writer, and a bird. All are trying to survive in an absurd and hostile environment of authoritarian spectacle, at the mercy of a tyrannical buffoon, and seeking the strange counterbalance of hope in a viola player, whose stunning music just might save them all, if only for a moment.

Antoine Volodine has written more than forty novels, using various heteronyms in his ongoing post-exoticism project. Other works in translation include Radiant Terminus, We Monks and Soldiers by Lutz Bassman, and In the Time of the Blue Ball by Manuela Drager.



Lia Swope Mitchell holds a PhD in French from the University of Minnesota. Her translations include Survival of the Fireflies by Georges Didi-Huberman (Minnesota, 2018).



Lionel Ruffel teaches comparative literature and création littéraire at Université Paris 8 (Vincennes-Saint-Denis). His most recent works include Brouhaha: Worlds of the Contemporary (Univocal/Minnesota, 2017).

Antoine Volodine's Solo Viola is a deft evisceration of fascism, seen through another lens and dislocated to a fantastical world. Volodine, here and elsewhere in his hugely important work, shows how the political and the fantastical can be intertwined in a way that allows a powerful reevaluation to occur—a reevaluation that feels all too starkly relevant to twenty-first-century America.

Brian Evenson, author of Song for the Unraveling of the World

Haunting and elegiac, Solo Viola has its share of whimsy, but it’s all in service of an earnest meditation on the dangers of fascism that lingers long after the story is concluded.

Foreword, starred review

Antoine Volodine has been exploding the boundaries of fiction for decades in his native France; now University of Minnesota Press brings one of his most fascinating experiments to U.S. readers with this new translation of Solo Viola. Its vision of performers and prisoners held under the sway of an authoritarian buffoon echoes eerily with our tumultuous present.

Chicago Review of Books

A wonderful exercise of imagination for the lover of translation.

Reading in Translation

Contents


1. Afternoon of May 27


2. Evening of May 27


3. Morning of June 27