Writer and translator Nathanaël's (The Middle Notebooks) latest is a slim, obscure "scenario" in which philosophical musings on architecture, the photographic image, and epistemology are layered atop a bare-bones narrative foundation. History, this elliptical book seems to imply, is too violent, chaotic, and vast to perceive in all its complexity; rather, the historical record is like a photograph left "to macerate too long in the developer... [a] thick amassment of detail, so intricate as to be indiscernible." The enigmatic protagonist is Feder, "a man, who is no man, in a time, which is no time." He is a creature of habit, marching up the same stairs to the same desk in a soulless architectural complex, where he works as a functionary assigned various vague tasks. Feder investigates an unidentified corpse languishing at the bottom of a stairwell, only to be eventually deemed guilty for some unspecified offense. The cipher-like Feder is at once vital to the smooth operation of the state mechanism and utterly replaceable, a body as expendable as the ones constantly washing ashore and onto the city streets. Thick, theory-heavy prose abounds--"The coincidence of reflectivity and transparency provokes an unresolvable somatic contradiction which is most apparent at a building's flexion"--but Nathanaël's idiosyncratic vision and patches of desert-dry absurdist humor add a pleasurable element to the reader's book-length bafflement.-- "Publishers Weekly"
"Somewhere between philosophical treatise and pastiche of a high-modern novella, Nathanaël's Feder: A Scenario marks the author's tenth volume with Nightboat Books. Beautifully designed, Feder follows its eponymous main character through his mundane life of steady bureaucratic labor in a highly regulated dystopian society, "a world of silence" not altogether dissimilar from the contemporary United States. The narrative, stylistically broken and spliced, follows Feder to the moment that this mundanity is broken through linguistic and temporal revelation. "Tomorrow is not a word that had occurred to Feder before. The whole mechanism grinds to a halt."--Trevor Ketner "Lambda Literary"
With an English as ebullient as it is macabre, Nathanaël's novel plunges its reader into a filmic world redolent of unsolved crime and suspicion. Part noir, part philosophical investigation, part literary subterfuge, Feder tenders image over evidence as it exfoliates the inside-out life of its protagonist Feder, at once aloof and queerly omniscient, with a propulsive intimacy that all but breeds a sense of the narrator's complicity in the narrative's central travesty. In this reality, municipal sewer systems are brimming with bodies drifted in with the tides, the last century's architectures have gone unpeopled, and a minor mishap on a tram can cause the sudden death of a stranger across a continent. Feder offers no simple set of problems and solutions, but the texture of an electric curiosity at play in language.