Indecipherable Chicken-Scratch Squiggles

Sam Mills had the good taste to choose “Celesteville’s Burning: A Work in Regress” as part of her contribution (5 February 2021) to A Personal Anthology, a fine series curated by Jonathan Gibbs.

‘Celesteville’s Burning: A Work in Regress’ by Andrew Gallix

Sostène Zanzibar, a successful novelist based in Paris, is suffering a midlife crisis and struggling with creative inspiration. When the journalist Loren Ipsum comes to interview him, they embark on a love affair that ends in humiliation for Zanzibar, who then descends into crisis. The prose is beautifully crafted, the story a wonderful mixture of literary satire, erudite references, superb puns and zingy one-liners, and jokes that made me laugh out loud — Zanzibar’s ex “publicly pooh-poohed his cunnilingus technique, comparing the result as a series of ‘indecipherable chicken-scratch squiggles’”. As the story progresses, there is a shift in tone from comic to poignant and the ending is dreamy and bittersweet.

First published in The White Review, and available to read online. Collected in We’ll Never Have Paris, Repeater Books, 2019.