Maylis de Kerangal’s _Painting Time_ plunges readers into the world of Paula Karst, a young woman who discovers a passion for trompe l’oeil painting techniques. After beginning her studies at the famous Institut de Peinture in Brussels, Paula meets two new lifelong friends – both enigmatic, resourceful, impulsive, and gifted. Together the three weave a complex relationship that mirrors the interconnectedness of their artistic materials. Replicating the grain of wood, the wear of marble, or the protrusion on a tortoiseshell requires method, technique, talent … but also something else. Paula strives to understand what she’s painting, both the “micro” that she is and the complex “macro” of the world and its history.
Paula’s apprenticeship is punctuated by hard work, sleepless nights, sore muscles, and saturnalian evenings. After completing her studies, she continues to practise her art in Paris, in Moscow, and then in Italy at Cinécittà, on the sets of great films – dream factories! – as if rehearsing for her grand finale: Lascaux IV, a life-sized replica of the world’s most famous paleolithic cave art and a zenith of human cultural expression.
In this exquisite and highly aesthetic coming-of-age novel, expertly translated by Jessica Moore, Kerangal mirrors the enchanted materialism of her protagonist’s artistic journey in her rich, lyrical prose.
About the authors
Maylis de Kerangal is the author of twenty novels and short-story collections, including three that have been translated into English by Jessica Moore and published by Talonbooks: Painting Time, Birth of a Bridge (Prix Médicis, Prix Franz Hessel, Premio Gregor von Rezzori), and Mend the Living (winner of a dozen literary prizes, translated into forty languages, adapted for cinema and theatre). She was an associate artist at the Musée d’Orsay in 2019–2020 and Chair of Literature at Sciences Po Paris in 2020. She lives and works in Paris.
Jessica Moore is the author of a collection of poems, Everything, now (Brick Books, 2012), and the translator for Mend the Living (Talonbooks, 2016), a translation of the novel by Maylis de Kerangal, which was longlisted for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize and won the Wellcome Book Prize in 2017. Moore’s writing has also appeared recently in BOMB, Canadian Art, Arc, CV2, The New Quarterly, Carousel, The Volta and The Antigonish Review. Moore lives in Toronto, ON.
"As she did with The Cook, award-winning French author de Kerangal offers stunning portraiture suffused with the joy and meaning of work."
—Library Journal (starred review)
"de Kerangal provides great insight about the alchemy involved in becoming an artist … we get the sense of being nudged toward an understanding of the ‘grace and vacuity that grazes genius.’”
—M.A.C. Farrant, Vancouver Sun
"The book is a joyful testament to the rigours of research, and to the translator's art, too. To have captured the excitement of those rolling, propulsive sentences – to make them more than a cut-and-paste from a thesaurus – is a wonderful achievement on the part of Jessica Moore."
—Times Literary Supplement
"[An] excellent translation, pulled off with sensitivity, empathy and … beautiful writing."
—The New European
"It’s very hard to translate the essence of one artistic medium into another. But de Kerangal manages the trick here, following the career of a painter and rendering her search for mastery of a craft in such a way that it reveals the author in full control of her own. Like her earlier novels ... Painting Time doesn’t just use paintings to further a story, or as a pretext for enlivening a bit of history. It’s a novel about the creative process itself."
"In this enthralling tale of vocation, discovery, and love … Kerangal balances the gloriously sensuous with the deeply reflective in an exquisite and omniscient streaming narration … resplendently evocative and exhilarating."