Forward NOW Montreal Review of Books Review of Contemporary Fiction Books in Canada
Review of Contemporary Fiction (Dalkey Archive Press, University of Illinois)

If Dashiell Hammett had written the stream-of-consciousness detective novel he once claimed he would like to, and that manuscript had been passed on to Edmond Jabès for severe line editing, then stolen by early-career Samuel Beckett to be dosed with bursts of hot humor and jaunty textures, then revisited by late-career Samuel Beckett for cooling and quieting, then borrowed by the late poet Jackson Mac Low to undergo various destabilizing textual operations, we might, if we could lay our hands on the resultant hybrid wonder, have some sense of the baffling, polymorphic territory limned in Robert Majzels’s stunning antinovel, Apikoros Sleuth.

As the publisher describes it, Sleuth is “a murder mystery in the form of a Talmudic Inquiry,” and there is no question that it is in negotiating the interwoven modes of inquiry (quotation, commentary, elaboration, aside, negation, blood stain, palimpsest, broken form, etc.) that the reader glimpses the mysterious, murderous architecture of Majzels’s gesture, in which language is both victim and description of victimization, and in which standard narrative has been put in a compressor and squeezed into more interesting ways of thinking. “Shall we solve this death or that one? Having failed to solve, or represent, or think those millions. This cannot enter your mind. Death is become a problem of degrees. How shall we dispose of it? The question, the difficulty, returned to its place. Where is a qualitative leap? Qu’est-ce qu’un simple meurtre?”

Majzels’s novel offers up its intriguing verbal conundrums on page after visually stunning page, their individual uniqueness underscoring the emphatic sui generis nature of the project. The reader won’t encounter another book like this one anytime soon.

– Laird Hunt

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