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Zone

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  677 ratings  ·  122 reviews
Par une nuit décisive, un voyageur lourd de secrets prend le train pour Rome, revisite son passé et convoque l'Histoire, dans un immense travelling qui mêle bourreaux et victimes, héros et criminels des guerres de la Méditerranée : une Iliade de notre temps.
Mass Market Paperback, 528 pages
Published September 2013 by Babel (first published August 15th 2008)
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Average rating 4.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  677 ratings  ·  122 reviews


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Vit Babenco
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Since the time of Troy the Mediterranean Basin, which Mathias Énard simply calls Zone, has been being torn apart and racked with wars and atrocious historical cataclysms. And his novel, heavy with the references and allusions to The Iliad, is a history of violence in the area told in the single, excruciatingly dark sentence.
…I had forgotten that I was a pawn like any other in the quarrels of Zeus, Hera, Apollo and Pallas Athena, a pawn used for carrying out an aim as obscure as the clouds amasse
...more
Jonfaith
Jan 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One last suitcase and I’ll join Sashka with the transparent gaze . . . no more lists no more torturers’ victims investigations . . . I’m changing my life

Such recalls Umberto Eco's definition of a polymath, one that is interested in everything and nothing else. Enard's gripping novel punches this reader with the weight of nearly all recorded (recoded) history in its wake.
Szplug
May 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Énard is the spiral architect par excellence, conceiving and bringing forth something truly exceptional—an epic maelstrom of interiority, a narrative storm of bruising power, a breathless, beautiful, benumbing barrage of Mediterranean-mounted memories whose track-tied onrushing spans the tide-ticked sea of time—from the basest, the ugliest of materials: the limitless human capacity for violence, irrationality, depravity, savagery, and self-deception.

Conceits exist within the book's framework and
...more
Lee Klein
Jul 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A discontinuous sentence broken up by chapters, a few of which relate a traditionally formatted story (many sentences, paragraphs, etc) the narrator reads while on the train from Milan to Rome. Not really a single sentence, folks, but the formal aspects of this one only superficially interest, the way each comma-delineated phrase is like a train-track tie, which the book associates with bodies piled up on the horizontal. Like a cut-up of an encyclopedia of the secret history of 20th century Euro ...more
Jim Elkins
Oct 09, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french
The Limits of the Modernist Long Sentence

The reviews, pre-publication reviews, and endorsements of this novel all focused on the notion that it is a single long sentence. (For example Patrick Reardon in the Chicago Tribune, December 9, 2008, which was included in the publisher's press pack.)

But this book is not one sentence, for at least four reasons. Two of them are listed in an excellent short survey of long sentences by Tim Parks (New York Times, December 24, 2010, in the Book Review, p. 27):
...more
Adam
Mar 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mathias Enard’s Zone is a novel that while it can’t be said that it is breaking new ground, but it is synthesizing various threads of narrative experimentation and presenting them in a maximalist style that resembles a grand claiming of new territory. W.G. Sebald’s Rings of Saturn, Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey, David Markson’s later work, Bernhard’s endless paragraph and symphonic repetition, Pound and Eliot’s poetry, Joyce’s dreams, and even contemporary journalism on the middle east(Robert Fisk ...more
Jonathan
Nov 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very much worth your time. Not perfect, and I share some of the concerns set out by other reviewers about its lack of focus, and the arbitrary nature of the conceit governing its prose, but there is much here that is just fantastic
João Reis
Jul 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book. It could be a superb book, but it has 3 problems IMHO: 1) it's too long - I usually prefer shorter books, I rarely see the point in adding some 300 extra pages to a perfect story, but that's just my opinion; 2) sometimes Énard is just plain pretentious - he's no doubt a man of culture and he clearly knows the Mediterranean basin as few, but he shows off all his knowledge, and I don't mean there's a problem regarding all the issues he writes about, that's actually one of his hi ...more
Jeremy
Sep 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Zone is a remarkable book. The premise of the whole thing will seem like an almost eye-rolling cliche, a jaded intelligence operative is on a train from Milan to Rome to sell a handcuffed suitcase full of intelligence secrets before he leaves the spy business forever. That train ride is all that 'happens,' conventionally speaking. But the torrent of memories, historical facts, and nightmarish complicities that unfold in an unstoppable bum-rush from his head is as delerious and sweeping as almost ...more
Daniel
Dec 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book is amazing. Enard's prose is hypnotic, insightful, and bold in its unconventional presentation. The story that he tells weaves together a vast amount of the history behind numerous wars (such as those in Yugoslavia, the Gaza strip, Algeria, etc) that have rolled across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa for centuries - all told through the voice of a man who is obsessed with these obsessive wars. In fact, if I had to describe this book in a few words, I would say this: it is obsessed ...more
J.
Jan 11, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: non-readers who need a doorstop
Shelves: europe, dumpster
* Jan 13, 2011 01:35pm
One sentence, 608 pages.
Translated from the french.
Looks like a love-it-or-hate-it if ever there was one.
à l'avant!
* Mar 03, 2011 10:51pm
Okay, page 119, lots of commas, lots of derivative history (20th cent EU history somehow always being mirrored by the greeks, and classicalism gone viral & rampant).. (Alright, the guy is a professor. Fine. I'm an electrician and I don't spend all day explaining ohm's law, do I ...)
Well, so far, at least I'm on the same freeway, b
...more
Ben Winch
I gave it a try, and to be fair I'm often reading upwards of four books at a time so it wasn't as if I threw myself into it. But there's a basic skill for storytelling that, four chapters in, Enard just doesn't seem to have. At first I wondered if it was me; to a certain extent, the style is compelling, the atmosphere strong, but gradually it becomes clear what is missing. Never does he linger on a scene. Everything's a whirl. Cut, cut, cut. And while this may seem impressive on the surface I qu ...more
Louise
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A spy (or political operative) who had been working the “Zone” (an area that seems to incorporate counties on the Mediterranean in Europe and Africa) for 30 or so years is traveling south through Italy on a train. He is carrying a suitcase with names and sensitive information for buyers at the Vatican. He will be well paid for this. After delivery he plans to change his identity and retire. On this train trip he reminisces about his long and eventful career.

Most of the book is one long sentence.
...more
Paul Fulcher
"...Rome where all roads lead before being lost in the night what will I do you're always tempted to retrace your steps to go back to where you lived, the way Caravaggio painter of decapitation wanted to see Rome again, despite the luxury of Malta the rotting beauty of Naples, constantly and ceaselessly Caravaggio desired the Eternal City the shady neighbourhoods the cutthroats around the mausoleum of Augustus the casual lovers games brawls laughable life where I will go back to, me, to Mostar c ...more
Marc
I’d like to say due to family medical issues, lack of sleep, and time since I read this that the following review will not be up to the usual standards you have come to avoid, but all that will probably make it better than you’re used to (from me)…

In looking back through my notes, having a few weeks to reflect on this book, the one thing I wrote that resonates even stronger today is that I felt this book was gripping, but not exactly enjoyable. You’re essentially along for the ride on a train th
...more
Inderjit Sanghera
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Zone' follows the stream-of-consciousness recollections of  a former spy, as he recalls not just the violence of his past, but the violence of the 'zone',  an area which stretches from the Middle-East to North Africa and the Mediterranean.  The novel is replete with recondite references to obscure acts of violence which occurred in the zone, as the vituperation of the various conflicts which take place in the area stream down from the page into the consciousness of the author, who finds himself ...more
AC
I liked this book enormously -- let me make just two points --

1.) the one sentence is something of a gimmick, since the clauses introduce natural pauses -- and the model is the late Céline with the three-dots (which Céline himself said was just a gimmick) simply omitted. Céline, of course, is one of the authors that Énard openly discusses.

2.) The second point should have cost the book a half-a-star (if I hadn't liked it so...). And that is that
(view spoiler)
...more
Tommi
Jun 11, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tricky one. The experimental form combined with the subject matter is the perfect formula for the sort of a novel that the more sophisticated end of dudebros will certainly have wet dreams about: only occasionally there’s a page that does not feature a body that is either dead, tortured, raped, or sexualized. True, we’re inside the head of a deeply troubled man, a head filled to the brim with some severe PTSD, yet there is something problematic with the violence-for-art’s-sake thing, I think, li ...more
Stephen Durrant
Apr 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Zone" refers here to the narrator's zone of operation: an area we might call the "Mediterranean rim," most notably Barcelona, Venice, Trieste, Croatia, Salonika, Istanbul, Beirut, Jerusalem, Algiers, Tangier, etc. The narrator, Francis Mirkovic is a French-Croat fascist and an amateur historian of twentieth-century horrors. His stream-of-consciousness narrative, which consists of one 517-page sentence, takes place as he rides a train between Milan and Rome, where he will deliver to the Vatican, ...more
Michael
080913: other people may offer an educated appraisal, an abstract summation, a conflagration of literary allusions- the best I can do is talk of the effect of this work: stunning, visceral, horrific, endlessly sad. to simply recount the narrative, the frame of meditating on his train, the portrait within accessed by his memories, is insufficient...

this is the Zone. aside from this sharing designation with Pynchon, this work makes me think of Gravity's Rainbow- informed by twenty more years, by t
...more
Leif Quinlan
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Whew... Ok
I'll start where all readers of this book are contractually obligated to start which is the one-sentence structure. First of all, it isn't really a single sentence as it's really just a standard structure but with punctuation and paragraph breaks removed - a 500+ page run-on sentence is more accurate (the distinction being that Enard doesn't go through acrobatics to make sure that this is a grammatically correct single sentence) and being thus, your brain adjusts after a few pages and
...more
Mark
Feb 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
.................I enjoy a challenging read now and again and Zone certainly lives up to that - it is basically a one-night train trip where the narrator ruminates over his 40 years of terror, torture and treachery in the lands bordering the Mediterranean which have been the source of endless conflict in effect since the beginning of civilization, a meditation by a person who doesn't seem to have ever tried to change the course of history in any kind of positive manner until now, rather "going w ...more
Katia N
Dec 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book's narrator has got very poignant, thoughtful and painfully honest voice. He talks about tragedies, war crimes, including his own, and the devastating beauty of the Mediterranean in one lengthy unstoppable monologue; kaleidoscope of places, people, destinies; connection of history, time, legends and reality... I thought I would not be able to read the sentence with the length of 500 pages, but you forget somehow that there is no full stops.

Wonderful mediation on the tragedy and beauty o
...more
Kelly
I just spent a semester reading about the Mediterranean. So yes, I will be reading this.
Matthias
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This experimental war novel is the literary equivalent to a war zone. The obliteration we will find there corresponds here to facts, anecdotes and personal memories splattered over the pages, in a long stream of words. If you want to process this information, you have to do it yourself. The continuous stream gets broken by brief chapters that use complete sentences, illustrating the inadequacy of this approach.

But I have reservations. Declining to process the wealth of information Énard gives u
...more
Remi
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
Now boarding, the Train of Thought
Within a single train compartment, towards a single destination, within a singular man's thoughts, in a single sentence, we are launched headfirst into the world of intrigue, war, romance, maudlin musings on writers and their violent and sexual habits. Politics is secondary within the Zone, though fascism is often flirted with, history of lost empires, crumbling cities, and rising seas.

One would easily call this a stream of consciousness, but if it is anything,
...more
Mark

This is one of the very few novels that I have finished and wanted to turn around and read over again right away. There is a real challenge in trying to describe the cumulative power of this tremendous novel: although there is little change in register or intensity, the weight of the story builds and builds, becoming almost unbearable. The narrator travels by train from Milan to Rome, carrying a briefcase of documents detailing the history of violence in the Zone (the Mediterranean basin, Spain,
...more
Marc Nash
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A 520 page novel told in a single unending sentence (save for 3 chapters of a book being read within this book). But it is not a stream of consciousness for the following reasons.

SoC tends to be fractured and fragmentary, modelling the way the brain is presumed to work and construct thought - thoughts overlap, fall out of consciousness, clamber over one another to be the most prominent, slip through the powers of recall because of cluttered focus etc. This book is neither fractured nor fragmenta
...more
Tuck
500 page novel that is more or less one sentence. but don't let that worry ya, take a ride with the protagonist all around the Mediterranean musing on the history, cultures, politics, violence and love of the characters, the croat spook mirkovic and the peoples and lands he's so cynically helped and hurt in the decades of his spookenness

enard is such a great writer for humanizing geopolitics religion economy and culture into a fictional character and storyline. a go-to author for a well rounded
...more
Thomas
Feb 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this is one of those books where a smart european guy thinks about things, and remembers things, and not much else happens, and it's very good even though it's not actually one sentence like the back of the book says
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256 followers
French fiction author. He mainly writes novels with Arabic themes. At university he studied Arabic and Persian. In 2000 he moved to Barcelona (Spain), where he writes all his works.
His first novel was La Perfection du tir, released in 2003. Two more books were released before his first success, Zone, appeared in 2008. This book, written as a single sentence that continues along more than 500 pages
...more

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