A review of

One-Way

by Didier van Cauwelaert

Central question: Where does the fairy tale end and the nation-state begin?
Format: 152 pp., hardback; Size: 5-3⁄8” x 8-1⁄4”; Run: 2,000; Price: $18; Editor: Stacy Hague; Age at which author wrote first novel: 13; Book designer: Natalya Balnova; Publisher: Other Press; Text typeface: Electra LH Regular; Time spent writing the novel: “Six semaines de gestation et neuf mois d’écriture.” Representative sentence: “I played with the TV, the faucets, the little soaps, and that weird contraption that looked like it was for washing dogs but was actually for shining shoes, after which I got bored.”

Pity the homeland—such a tender, fragile thing! You may have noticed some nervousness of late about the safety and sanctity of our soil. Homelands are ever-anxious brutes. Way back in the early 1990s, the French, fretting that their Frenchness was growing dilute (as we at the time fretted too, and watched Pat Buchanan on TV), passed edicts to preserve the imperiled patrie, to cinch up the borders, send the swarthy and unpapered back to the lands that papered them. In response Didier van Cauwelaert penned Un Aller Simple, which won the 1994 Prix Goncourt. (He has written over a dozen other novels, but none of them have yet been shipped across the sea.) Released here almost ten years later under the title One-Way, it is a smart and serious little book about identity and immigration, tourism and the exotic, the politics of the global economy, the power of narrative, and that elusive, illusory, and generally untrustworthy character: the authentic. It is also extremely funny.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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—Ben Ehrenreich

Ben Ehrenreich is a writer who lives in Los Angeles. He has recently finished his first novel.

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