Translated from the French, Phototaxis is a fragmentary, darkly-humorous, and apocalyptic novel from a leading young voice from Montreal from Montreal centered around questions of friendship, the commodification of globalized tragedy, ecological crisis, the griefs of migration, and the possibility of political coherence in today’s world.
In a city mysteriously overflowing with meat, a museum is bombed, a classical piano player hooked on snuff films throws himself off a building, a charismatic but misled political organizer has disappeared, and a young immigrant navigates a crumbling continent. In the fallout of their friendship, Olivia Tapiero’s Phototaxis deploys a fugal language at turns surreal, scathingly comic, poetic, and revolutionary to dismantle our world and construct one even closer to its breaking point, or further along in its breaking. Here, voice and event surge up like reflux from the exhausted throats of nature and urban spaces, sounding out an architecture of failure within a suspiciously steady rise of fascism and its persistent counterpoints. A dystopic work of hope that carries its own disintegration, Phototaxis (translated by Kit Schluter) is Tapiero’s first novel to appear English.
“A museum bombing, a missing political organizer and a classical piano player who jumps off a building illuminate a city filled with dystopia and hope."—Tammy Tarng, The New York Times
“Canadian writer Tapiero’s narratively opaque but politically acute English-language debut… is a confrontational but eminently quotable text. This cyclone of art, destruction, and nonconformity impresses.”—Publishers Weekly
"How might we live in a world so full of contempt for us? How might we love each other in a smouldering cityscape where we are nothing but flickering lights over black waters, parasites, hosts, forgetful martyrs, prisoners staving off state-sanctioned cannibalism? War is never declared, yet its victims are innumerable. Bodies fall, pianos gather dust, governments collect data and impose curfews. Meat rots in the street, innocence is always a lie. We flagellate ourselves by the side of the highway in hopes of forgetting forgetting itself. Every cause is already lost, and every disappearance is wholly devoid of poetry. Nevertheless, despite everything, in the darkness, Narr still sings her song of light. Tapiero’s dizzying chronicle of beauty and horror is exquisitely rendered here in Schluter’s ethereal yet precise translation."—Simon Brown
"Olivia Tapiero’s virtuosic Phototaxis reverses the purgative gesture of necrophoresis: every sentence is shot through with the stench of carrion and the death rattle of capital’s circulation. Reading the text, one feels the vertigo of an interminable fall refracted in an infinity mirror of the commodified image. Tapiero’s haunting lyricism, atmospherically rendered in Kit Schluter’s translation, will ring out in your skull long after reading the book’s final word: music."—Jackie Wang
“Olivia Tapiero’s Phototaxis propels us through exploding whales, ‘silky little bodies,’ oceans ‘gorged with toxic oysters,’ dazzling despair and seeping song. In Kit Schluter’s lush yet exacting translation, three figures navigate life in a collapsing world of crumbling language and intact borders. As this symphony of ruin reaches its crescendo, we realize this world might just be our own.”—Emma Ramadan