Interfictions Reviews – "Emblemata"

Léa Sihol
translated from the French by Sarah Smith

This story goes way the hell over my head. Like “Rats” and “Pallas at Noon”, “Emblemata” makes me wonder what a ho hum writer like me is doing in this anthology at all. It isn’t just that I have only the most rudimentary grasp of the concepts of buddhist philosophy. This is a story whose content transcends its form. These are themes that, if you handed them to me and said “write a short story to encompass them”, I’d tell you they are too much for such a small form, that it couldn’t be done–except maybe in the style of Borges, where the story ceases to be a story, the character ceases to be a character, once it has served its purpose and revealed the true immensity of its ideas. And “Emblemata” does follow that Borgesian structure. Certainly its main character, Iacovleff, dissolves into the whiteness of the page by story’s end. And yet there’s something that makes Ms. Sihol’s writing more approachable than Borges’, more immediate and contextual. Maybe it’s just the fact that I am in an anthology with her that makes me think somehow I might be able to learn from this, to do this. I know, it sounds like catching flies with my fingertips. But I’ve tried the Borges thing, and I can’t do it. This is a story worth studying, worth taking apart to see what makes it go.


  1. Well, Mike, I honestly didn’t know whether to feel trepidation for you or admiration at your chutzpa at reviewing an anthology you actually appear in, but I am intrigued by your description of this story (tasty tasty themes, we loves them) and have enjoyed reading all the reviews. Can’t wait to lay hands on my own copy.

    1. Yes! Erin, I suspect you would actually be able to grasp this story from the philosophical angle. I hope you will read it and let me know if I’m on the right track in my interpretation.

      And yeah… I certainly felt quite a bit of trepidation at various points in this process. And though I have really enjoyed doing it, especially all the interesting discussion that’s come out of it, I did get several very polite, concerned warnings that I was being a big idiot. And I probably will never do this again. Which is sad.

  2. hallo there Michael,

    Very brave of you to review a collection in which you appear, maybe. But a big idiot? I don’t think so. I don’t know, frankly, what would prevent us to have a clear idea on a book just because we’re ‘in the ship’!
    I didn’t get a chance, for now, to read Interfictions. But I hope I will be able to do so, soon! The book seems amazing.
    Thanks for your thoughts about my “Emblemata”. Very interesting for me. And a just-personal-stupid joy to find an AIR flag near your words. 😉
    It was *certainly* a strange thing to write that. My most “calm” story ever, I guess. The sadness of it still clings on my tongue.
    As I see you’re in NIN things… The story was written with the last tracks of WT playing as a support. (from BYIT to Home) I’m sure it helps to decipher this Alien. 😉



    1. Lea,

      Thanks so much for making the effort to translate yourself into English just to comment on my blog!

      Yes, I love my green-stained Art is Revolution flag. And I too have gotten through my share of stories on a steady diet of NIN on repeat.

      “Emblemata” is the first story of yours I’ve read. Are there others in English? If so I would love to get ahold of them. My French, I am sorry to say, is atrocious. It is a very sad story–but also profound. I loved it (if I didn’t make that clear). 🙂

      1. Hallo there,
        Kind of you Michael, but not special thankes owed, here — I’ve been a senior editor for years, and published nice-ones like Gaiman, Lee, de Lint, Constantine and score of other writers who couldn’t speak French. I was, thus, speaking (babbling) English half of the day! 😀

        “Emblemata” is my second story translated in English. The first was “Under the Needle” in “Ousiders”, edited by N. Holder and N. Kilpatrick at Roc/NAL. Something… ahem… very different. About tattoos, sub-cultures and… revenge! 😀

        I’m afraid to be quite the lazy one to all that concerns foreign publications. I only answers to ‘direct invitations’. Stupid thing, as I love the English language. But then… i suppose that I’m always swallowed up by my excitement on “new things”, and the alchemy of translation is thus always posponed to tomorrow and tomorrow and… 😀

        Concerning Emblemata, yes, I guess the word “sad” applies. Not my usual treat but then- that was all the point of it. I thnk that it was clear that you loved it somehow. 😉
        I look forward to read Interfictions. But I guess that I will begin with your story, now! Blame your blog!:-)



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