The Facts of Winter Review

The Facts of Winter
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The Facts of Winter ReviewPaul La Farge's book THE FACTS OF WINTER is a haunting, funny, intriguing, little book. There are echoes of the unreliable editor of Nabokov's Pale Fire or the authorial self-awareness of Calvino's If On a Winter's Night a Traveler and the strings of strange little stories like Calvino's Invisible Cities. Yet, it is a lovely work in it's own right and is in no way derivative of these earlier works.
The book features a series of short dreams (1-3 pages) of Parisians in 1881. On facing pages, the reader is treated to French and English versions of the dream narratives followed by an academic-styled afterward examining the life of the ersatz author Paul Poissel. The writing is lyrical and the reader has a haunting feeling of the interconnectedness of certain images and ideas among the dreams that in a way that is highly pleasing but difficult to explain. If one reads even a little French there are certain sly winks in the French. As discussed in the afterward, the title itself is a pun in French: Les faits d'hiver or L'effet divers. The illustrations are an added bonus and suit the work perfectly. They remind me of Lorca's doodles.
Much like trying to describe a dream to a friend it is difficult to describe the way the book connects and intertwines as you read it which is perhaps why they other reviews are so brief and why I've resorted to so many comparisons. It is not a book for those who demand straightforward narrative, but for those who enjoy good, poetic writing and are willing to let the work wash over them it is a lovely read. It is the best thing I've read in months.
The Facts of Winter OverviewThe Facts of Winter is a series of dreams, all dreamed by people in and around Paris during the winter of 1881. It is historical fiction once removed: an account of events that were imaginary even from the point of view of an invented past - although Poissel claimed (in a letter to his friend Bartholomeo Facil, August, 1905) that "the characters in this book are all true - all persons who really lived and slept that winter."

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