In 2007, Paula Karst begins her studies at the famous Institut de Peinture in Brussels. There she meets two 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, the “micro” that she is and the “macro” that she contemplates in art history. She chooses the painstaking demands of craftmanship over the abstraction of high art.
Paula’s apprenticeship is punctuated by hard work, sleepless nights, sore muscles, and saturnalian evenings. After completing her studies at the Institute, 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 the grand finale: Lascaux IV, a life-sized replica of the world’s most famous paleolithic cave art and a zenith of human cultural expression.
This exquisite and highly aesthetic coming-of-age novel by the author of Birth of a Bridge and Mend the Living uses a succession of trompe-l’oeil techniques to explore a young woman’s art apprenticeship. Maylis de Kerangal offers the key to the enchanted materialism of her writing.
About the authors
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.
"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."
"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)
"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."