Aliène by Phoebe Hadjimarkos Clarke

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This is a dark and sparkling novel, and one of the most interesting contemporary books I’ve read in recent years. Hadjimarkos Clarke is a translator and her feel for language is evident in the book. She is a masterful stylist and also a masterful storyteller – a rare combination. Like Gaspard Koenig, she flirts with offbeat humor, but similarly retains a capacity for sincerity and precision that is remarkable. This is also an ecological novel, although in a very different way than Humus. It almost feels fantastical, lush and horrifying and exploratory. 

Fauvel is recovering from a traumatic disability and living in isolation in the countryside, caring for a friend’s dog. The dog is a clone of a beloved family dog – a multiple in a series of clones before it. It is aggressive, regularly hunting and killing other animals. Fauvel feels guilt but also a persistent sense of danger. She is becoming increasingly detached from the world and increasingly in tune with a violent and cruel vision of nature. She develops a friendship with a sociologist exploring alien encounters, further loosening her grasp on the here and now. Or perhaps the world is subtly reforming around her, morphing into a new and unrecognizable shape.

Aliène, at its core, is about alienation. It probes the powerful warp of loneliness, the violent hierarchies of our world, the subtle horror of everyday life. 

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Miriam Gordis is a bookseller and English language buyer at Albertine. She previously worked in book publishing, most recently as a literary scout. She has served as a reader for the Whiting Award for Nonfiction and the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award. Originally from California, she has worked as a legal translator in Paris and as a copyeditor in Moscow. She is a lover of non-fiction, visual art, pilates, and sunshine.
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