A highly original coming-of-age story: the artistic and emotional apprenticeship of a young decorative painter, from the Wellcome Book Prize-winning author of Mend the Living.
Behind the ornate doors of 30, rue du Metal in Brussels, twenty students begin their apprenticeship in the art of decorative painting - an art of tricksters and counterfeiters, where each knot in a plank of wood hides a secret and every vein in a slab of marble tells a story.
Among these students are Kate, Jonas and Paula Karst. Together, during a relentless year of study, they will learn the techniques of reproducing materials in paint, whether animal, vegetable or mineral, and the intensity of their experience - the long hours in the studio, the late nights, the conversations, arguments, parties, romances, will cement a friendship that lasts long after their formal studies end.
For Paula, her initiation into the art of trompe l' il will take her back through time, from her own childhood memories, to the ancient formations of the materials whose depiction she strives to master. And from the institute in Brussels where her studies begin, to her work on the film sets of Cinecitta, and finally the caves of Lascaux, her experiences will transcend art, gradually revealing something of her own inner world, and the secret, unspoken, unreachable desires of her heart.
A coming-of-age novel like no other; an atmospheric, imaginative, highly aesthetic portrayal of love, art and craftsmanship from the acclaimed author of Birth of a Bridge and Mend the Living.
Always brilliant, executed in flowing, lyrical prose that had already reached the firmament in [Mend the Living] . . . De Kerangal finds fiction in reality; precise, technical vocabulary is imbued with rich imagination and meaning. And mastering trompe-l' il - isn't that the ideal metaphor for the work of a novelist? - Liberation
The art of painting in perfect harmony with de Kerangal's writing; visual, flamboyant, assured . . . in perfect alignment with her subject - Telerama
Intensely alive, encompassing both the technical and the poetic, emotion and cerebrality - Le Monde
Maylis de Kerangal spent her childhood in Le Havre, France. Her novel, Birth of a Bridge, was the winner of the Prix Franz Hessel and Prix Medicis in 2010. In 2014, her fifth novel, Mend the Living, was published to wide acclaim in France, winning the Grand Prix RTL-Lire award and the student choice novel of the year from France Culture and Telerama. In the UK, Mend the Living was longlisted for the Booker International Prize in 2016, and won the Wellcome Book Prize in 2017 - only the second novel and the first work in translation ever to do so.