Writers was published in the French original as a novel (‘roman’), but even Dalkey Archive Press, usually open to most any form of genre-stretching, demurred here, opting merely for some back-cover copy that describes the book as consisting of: “seven loosely interlocking stories”. Loose is right — there’s some suggestion of overlap of characters and work, but little obvious connection — but then this is a book by Antoine Volodine, whose entire œuvre at first seems disjointed and yet must be considered part of a ‘body of work’. In particular, Volodine stretches the usual writing bounds by assuming different authorial identities: like Pessoa, he’s adopted a number of heteronyms (and, indeed, ‘Antoine Volodine’ itself is a pseudonym) — notably Lutz Bassmann and Manuela Draeger.
In Writers, too, identity is rarely fixed: writing about a Linda Woo, suddenly:
She takes on the voice of Maria Iguacel. Suddenly she is Maria Iguacel. So am I.
In a way, Writers is Volodine-in-miniature: variations on themes and identities, with similarities and overlap but never making it too easy or obvious — as in, for example, ascribing An Autumn at the Boyols’ to one of the subjects of the book, and A Meeting at the Boyols’ to another. His work as a whole — and often individually, as also in this instance — is more like a finely spun spider-web, the gossamer threads barely visible, but an intricate connected design there nevertheless.