Here, in six new fragment stories written for PEN Atlas, a foretaste of the book.
You can also read my Top Ten of Authentic Romances, in the Guardian Website.
This extremely unusual book is much more than a novel on love, it’s a multitude of brief novels on love. From several sentences to several pages,this proliferation of moments and romantic instants is not encumbered by the need to tell a tale from beginning till end. Instead, we are plunged into the heart of a situation, an emotion or a thought, into what is most immediately deep. Just a few words, sentences, notations. And it works so powerfully because Emmanuelle Pagano has a highly developed sense of detail, the type of detail that, alone, is able to summarize entire situations and to convey their meaning to the reader. Stories and moments of encounter and rupture, of sex and sentiments; stories of happiness, sadness, helplessness and exaltation. Women and women, men and men,women and men, separately and together.
In this exceptionally moving and varied book, a great number of anonymous characters offer us an intimate glimpse at their private lives. The stories range from a few lines to a few pages, and are all in the first person. This choral “I” creates a collection in the shape of a kaleidoscope of intimacy and emotion, drawn from different ages and eras. The style is masterful, the fragments full or poetry, affection, sensuality and humor, too. You can’t help smiling when you recognize yourself or someone you love in certain characters. These clever and varied fragments are surprisingly moving on many different levels. Emmanuelle Pagano offers us a wide range of love stories, composed of ple asure and excitement, love and sex, bodies and souls, getting started and breaking up. A series of fragments that each tell a different story, sometimes in a man’s voice, sometimes a woman’s.
In Trysting, love is in the details, composed of daily gestures – the ones we do or don’t agree to share, the ones we miss when the other isn’t there.
Nothing is taboo here, but nothing is vulgar either. The bodies, with their desires – and sometimes their disgraces – are real. This kaleidoscope of love stories, all told in the first person, is a delight: concrete and ordinary, but poetic and moving, too.
The author portrays the ties that bind, and how they can be tight or slack, smooth or frayed. She allows us to see her characters’ strengths and weaknesses, cowardice and courage; their children, friends and families, their daily lives – in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, married or not.
Grains of sand, bridges, shampoo, a bike, board games, yoga, sellotape, birds, balloons, tattoos, wandering hands, tweezers, maths, fish, letterboxes, puppets, a vacuum cleaner, a ball of string – and love.
In this fiction of yous and mes, of hims and hers, Pagano choreographs the objects, gestures, places, and persons through which love is made real.
The remarkable Trysting by Emmanuelle Pagano, translated by Jennifer Higgins and Sophie Lewis, which we’re describing as Edouard Levé meets Marguerite Duras. In over 100 fragments, author Emmanuelle Pagano recounts a shocking range of romantic incidents that reveal the wide-ranging, remarkable—and utterly strange—forms that love can take. A book that shows you that each and every love is unique, but also resembles all the others.
Every love story is unique. The reasons why people meet, why they have so much chemistry together, and why they sometimes fail to remain in love are different for every couple. And yet it is also true that all relationships have certain similarities. In Trysting, Emmanuelle Pagano celebrates both the original and the generic, giving us glimpses into nearly 300 different relationships of all kinds: romances between various ages, genders, and sexualities, comprising first dates, bitter memories, love at first sight, infidelities, dependencies, missed connections, divorces, and the first throes of passion. Almost anything can be a vehicle for Pagano’s imagination, from amnesia and sex to throat-clearing, sign language, earplugs, anti-depressants, arthritis, leather and PVC, comas, paint, hotels, floorboards, and showers. This potent mixture of aphorisms, anecdotes, and compact stories inspires us to know our own romances better—by catching glimpses of them in Pagano’s innumerable true-to-life fragments.
What is love? Why do some people make our hearts flutter, while others leave us cold? Where do our intense passions come from, and why do they sometimes end in heartbreak? A seductive blend of Maggie Nelson and Marguerite Duras, Trysting seizes romance’s slippery truths by showing us glimpses into nearly 300 beguiling relationships: affairs between all genders and sexualities, ranging among first dates, bitter memories, infidelities, dependencies, true love, missed connections, and first passions. Proving that the erotic knows no bounds, almost anything can be a means of attraction: from amnesia and throat-clearing to sign language, earplugs, anti-depressants, back hair, arthritis, leather, PVC, hotels, floorboards, and showers. Combining aphorisms, anecdotes, and adventures, Trysting is a tour de force that gives us all a new perspective on a question as old as humanity.
Advance Praise for Trysting :
« It’s familiar, never banal. It has nothing performative, only secretive. […] It is all of an incredible sensitivity/finesse. » Olivia de Lamberterie, Elle
« It is an album of destinies. They each have their décor. They talk of first frosts, of the wood that must be entered, of the huge rubbish tips of life, of the disorder of houses. Of beds that are no longer made because they are too often occupied. Of the warmth of being at home and of finding oneself. This essential truth of what we are. Emmanuelle Pagano sends every reader back to familiar territory. Her book is full of discreet and recognisable emotion. » Xavier Houssin, Le Monde
« Under her pen which is an eye, Pagano exalts the wastage of time, its grand affair. Time and its ‘arbitrary wing’ as Lord Byron said. In this little game of references, it’s the sharp eye of Duras, that of La Vie materielle, that must be evoked, or of Violette Leduc and the essential fantasy of Emily Dickinson. Emmanuelle Pagano: remember her name! » Thierry Clermont, Le Figaro
« Prosaic but never vulgar, Emmannuelle Pagano dissects lovers’ promiscuity, interrogates the cartography of our emotional lives. » Clémentine Goldszal, Les Inrockuptibles
« Seizing reality at that troubling junction between the quotidian and the extraordinary, the banal and the poetic, this literary package/machine with no equivalent unknots the internal ‘ball of string’ where hides the points of departure or arrival, of love in a life or a night, of a daily rhythm or a sudden surprise. » Alexandre Gefen, Le magazine littéraire
« Universal, yet utterly personal, Emmanuelle Pagano’s Trysting examines the infinite differences (and similarities) of hundreds of relationships. From first kisses to betrayals, coughs to insomnia, glimpses of characters engaged in naked confession drift and hover throughout this profound book. Eloquently translated by Jennifer Higgins and Sophie Lewis, Trysting deftly probes the seen and unseen in human attraction, ultimately unmasking our own shared humanity. Pagano has created something entirely new. Every voice, though shadowy and shapeless, feels relatable. Beguiling and uncategorizable, Trysting celebrates the joys and heartbreaks of being alive. » Mark Haber, Brazos Bookstore
some appreciative readers before publication :
‘Trysting is mirror shattered in play: inscribed on each bright shard of glass, a fable about a fragment of love.’ Joanna Walsh, author of Vertigo
‘Polyphonic, arboreal, rhizomatic, desperate, stunning.’ Lauren Elkin, author of Flâneuse
‘The interactions of men and women, infinitely varied and minutely scrutinised, are Emmanuelle Pagano’s central concern here. No oddity or anomaly of behaviour is too slight to escape her notice, but the effect is less forensic than boundlessly compassionate and wise. She is a prose poet worthy to stand with the great exponents of the genre.’ Christopher Reid, author of A Scattering
“Here it feels as if one love story is told countless ways. It left me feeling the unknowable nature of love and love’s loss. A real pleasure to read.” Sara Majka, author of Cities I’ve Never Lived In
‘A bold, experimental book of cohering fragments, full of intimately-spoken truths about desire, about love, and about their aftermaths. It is like having strangers whisper their secrets into our minds.’ Patrick McGuinness, author of The Last Hundred Days
‘Subtle and moving, the fragments of life presented in Trysting question the relationships between love, sex and gender, making the everyday strange and the strange everyday’ Juliet Jacques, author of Trans: A Memoir
Josh is writing : A Book A Week