BY Nathalie Quintane


ISBN: 9781734317671 (2022)

Lauded French poet Nathalie Quintane’s Tomatoes, written at the height of the infamous Tarnac affair, is a book of “integrated critique,” a form of literary non-fiction that prefers anecdote to theory. In Tomatoes, it turns out that the banalities of municipal politics, book festivals and vegetable gardening are saturated with all the latest advances in state repression. Quintane’s irony makes demands, puts something at stake, attempts to “couple more intimately an intention in the form of a sentence and an intention in the form of a life.” And the intentions are insurrectionary, anti-capitalist, and poetic. Translator Marty Hiatt couples the book with Quintane’s essay “Why doesn’t the far left read literature?”—a question Juliana Spahr, in her foreword wondering what “American literature” means anymore, contextualizes thus: “something that appears to be about being French but is also about being American and yet is not global.” That something is finally just the trade in letters made to console when things get “tricky, irritating, unbearable.” For Anglophone readers, this book offers a challenge, where “the only truly interesting books are the ones the police read… And it sends sales figures through the roof!” But what to do with “the desire to produce truth, for real”?

Nathalie Quintane was born in Paris in 1964 and is the author of over twenty books of experimental poetry and genre-defying prose. She famously wrote a book about a shoe and ran a parody literary journal in the 1990s with Christophe Tarkos and Stéphane Bérard. In recent years (beginning with Tomates in 2009), her work has come to directly address particular political issues, including the plight of refugees in Europe, the gilets jaunes and Nuit debout movements, the Front nationale, and France’s colonial legacies. Keenly aware of how aesthetics, language, and politics are related, she critiques political and critical languages by practicing her own alternatives. Her style is incisive and droll, using wordplay to make cutting political arguments, and her texts have a light and vital energy that likely comes from her quasi-improvised approach to composition. Quintane is considered one of the major experimental poets of her generation; Tomatoes is only her second book-length work available in English, after Cynthia Hogue and Sylvain Gallais’s translation of Jeanne Darc.

Marty Hiatt (b. 1983) is a poet and translator from Melbourne. He is a co-founder of the Gegensatz Translation Collective and also works for the Artichoke Reading and Translation Series in Berlin. His translations from the French include “Survival” by Danielle Collobert, and “The Vintage” by Guillaume Apollinaire. MATERIALS/MATERIALIEN released his full-length book of poetry, Paraphrenia, in 2019, and he occasionally publishes poetry as Bulky News Press. He received a Research Stipend for Non-German Literature from the Berliner Senat in 2021.