This week some astute souls have aimed a few rays of Intertube at my English translation of Octave Mirbeau’s lost masterpiece In the Sky. If you haven’t heard by now, Mirbeau was a 19th-century French anarchist author whom, if you enjoy Camus, the Coen Brothers, Bukowski, or any other 20th/21st-century purveyor of wry darkness, you must read before you die.
Thanks to my publisher Chip Smith, bloggers like Anita Dalton and Matt Forney, podcasters like Robert Stark, academics like Pierre Michel, and anarchists like Bob Helms, this 19th-century forerunner of French existentialism is getting yanked from the muck of forgetfulness like the skeleton of Richard the Third.
In the Sky is a truly remarkable work, a tragicomic portrait of male loserdom and artistic struggle in nineteenth century France. Mirbeau’s novel also functions as an odd supplement to Sterzinger’s own oeuvre. While NVSQVAM (Nowhere) and The Talkative Corpse are steeped in the “loser lit” tradition of Céline, reading In the Sky actually helped me understand both novels a bit better.
This book reached into my chest, grabbed my heart with both hands, and wrung it out…. Mirbeau is a genius. He portrayed with great intensity a quietly malignant life, a person rotting inside because of tension and fear, a person for whom a blue sky is a crushing reminder that there is no freedom, only a mocking emptiness that can never be filled. This is a book about a man who died while still living, who kept dying long after the disease had eaten its fill.
Buy it on Amazon (hit my affiliate link on the right if you’d like me to have a few more cents at no cost to you), or pick it up straight from Chip—but pick it up. Damn it, I didn’t spend hundreds of hours fine-tuning this thing (notably, Dalton did a bang-up job for us on the final proofread) just to watch the maestro drown all over again.