Maurice Roche has been called “the most interesting novelist in France” (TriQuarterly), and Compact “one of the classics of our modernity” (Le Figaro). Certainly, Compact is one of the most compellingly original works of fiction of the postwar period. Composed—as if a musical score—of six intertwining narratives (each distinguished by its own voice, tense, and typeface), Compact has lost none of its remarkable freshness or groundbreaking innovation since its first appearance in 1966.
But along with its striking originality, Compact is also a work rich in offbeat humor and great humanity. Compact is the story of a blind man living in a city of his own imagining. Confined to his deathbed, he engages in mental walks through the world’s capitals. These sightless excursions explode in a plethora of musical arrangements, sexual encounters, and mysterious funeral rites. Meanwhile, a Japanese collector and his transvestite assistant watch over the blind man in exchange—upon the latter’s death—for his magnificent tattooed skin. As a further ordeal, the protagonist finds himself prey to the whims of a sadistic French girl in the next apartment.
A novelistic tour de force, Compact fully bears out La Tribune de Geneve‘s judgment of Maurice Roche’s work as “the most important literary upheaval to hit France in the last decade.”