Sublime, legendary, delightfully unhinged. Sam Riviere's Dead Souls is a rare and brilliant pleasure, a coiling, searing fugue of a book that takes our deranged culture and pulls forth from it a box of stars
Dead Souls is the literary equivalent of a 100% cocoa bar: intimidating, bitter, rich, and ultimately the only one worth your time. The novel seduces through relentlessly nested narratives, endlessly psychologically refracted. I have no idea quite how Rivière makes such an undertaking a compulsive and delightful page-turner - I wish I did, because I'd steal it. Something oracular and terrifying lurks just below the surface of the pitch-perfect digressions and character assassinations, like uncovering the evidence for a long-dismissed paranoia and finding yourself an unwitting instigator of the conspiracy. But it's also beautiful, intricately humane, and gut-wrenchingly funny; not so much cynical as a ruthless vivisection of cynicism itself... Reading it feels like discovering the British Bolaño, and not just for the gleeful dismantling of the cultural ego: the restless, searching sensibility; the precise tuning-in to contradictory voices. I haven't been so excited by a debut novel in a long time
As Brontë does so disarmingly in Wuthering Heights and Nabokov in Pale Fire, Sam Riviere gives a loquacious and pleasingly unreliable nobody the task of telling the tale of Dead Souls' true protagonist: Solomon Weise, a recently excommunicated poet who seems to have been everywhere and known everyone. In long, sure sentences reminiscent of Thomas Bernhard, Riviere cracks open the administrative heart of the contemporary literary endeavor, finding it full not of hot air but of crowds of characters, a whole shimmering historical ecosystem-in short, the world as we know it, as mesmerizingly real as it is fictional.
I absolutely adored Dead Souls. Reading it felt like overhearing the most exhilarating, funny, mean conversation imaginable - which is to say it made me extremely happy and I dreaded it ending
Dead Souls is elegant, ambitious, very serious and very funny - an enlivening burst of anti-anti-intellectualism.
If as I read Sam Riviere's wonderful first novel I discerned intriguing notes of Rachel Cusk's Outline Trilogy and Thomas Bernhard's propulsive monologues, I also found myself thinking with pleasure of the intricate (and hilarious) book-world satire in Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler. Echoes aside, Dead Souls is its own whip smart, razor sharp, wise-funny, highly readable animal and I can't recommend it enthusiastically enough.
Mordant, torrential, incantatory, Bolano-esque, Perec-ian, and just so explosively written that I had to stop and shake the language-shrapnel from my hair and wipe it off my eyeglasses so I could keep reading.
Full of clever postmodern flourishes, self-referential winks and riotous set pieces. It's funny, smart and beautifully written.
Riviere artfully blends metaphysics, existentialism, ideas of originality, and plagiarism, plus an enticing dose of history and memoir in this captivating read.
Riviere's provocative debut novel ... Calls to mind Thomas Bernhard not only for its form but its rhythm and cadence
A mesmeric (and often mordantly funny) read. Fans of the great Austrian curmudgeon Thomas Bernhard will recognise the style. I also thought of other modern masters who capture the cataract of consciousness in serpentine syntax: László Krasznahorkai; Javier Marías; even WG Sebald. And, of course, this shaggy-dog story about the delusions and misadventures of obscure, self-mythologising poets cannot help but evoke the Roberto Bolaño of The Savage Detectives ... The sheer brio and tumbling intelligence of Riviere's narration lift almost every page. Once you catch the spuming surf of his prose you'll want to ride the wave to the shore. He's wickedly sharp about the pious deceits, and self-deceptions, that fuel the culture industry like oil
One of the wittiest, sharpest, cruellest critiques of literary culture I've ever read. No summary can convey the hypnotic effect of Riviere's relentless prose. An astute, wildly original novel that talks trash about everyone whose success galls you. And there's nothing quite so delicious as that
Whip-smart. Maddening. Weirdly hypnotic. I loved it
Entirely original ... I laughed loud and often at the author's exuberance
100 pages in, I was thinking, "Why bother with anything else? Why bother with lunch?" This is a brilliant and brilliantly entertaining novel. The writing is merciless; the rage is genuine. The cumulative effect is exhilarating: Riviere has turned paranoid pub talk and midnight doubts into a prose poem of laceration
A boozy, raging, hilarious and surreal recounting that keeps you enraptured
With sinuous, ornate prose and riotous set pieces, it's funny, smart and beautifully written
John Cheever wrote, 'one never asks is it a novel? One asks is it interesting', and Dead Souls is definitely interesting ... Funny, smart ... with less vinegar and vitriol than Bernhard, more wryness and lashings of irony
Intoxicating ... Stepping through Dead Souls' funhouse mirror, we see the current normal reality is as absurd and empty as an email. Yet, running through the novel is a skein of hope
Imagine Thomas Bernhard without the moral seriousness ... This a clever, funny book, an atheistic cousin to The Third Policeman