For all its sandstorm of scholarship, translated with tireless eloquence by Charlotte Mandell, Compass aches with…simple yearning.

The Economist

Charlotte Mandell

A Chevalier des Arts et Lettres, Charlotte Mandell has translated over forty books from the French, including works by Flaubert, Proust, and Genet. In 2001 she received a translation prize from the Modern Language Association for her translation of Faux Pas by Maurice Blanchot, in 2010 her translation of Zone by Mathias Énard received a translation grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and in 2018 she won the National Translation Award in Prose for her translation of Compass by Énard. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband, the poet Robert Kelly.

cover image of the book War


Céline had long claimed that Death on the Installment Plan was part of a trilogy, and that the manuscripts of War and London had been stolen by the Resistance from his apartment, when he fled for his life—an abhorred collaborator—from Paris. Few believed him, but then, mysteriously, the manuscripts came to light in 2020. Greeted rapturously in France (“a miracle,” Le Monde; “the discovery of a great text,” Le Point), War is sure to generate more controversy abroad. Though much revered as “the most blackly humorous and disenchanted voice in all of French literature” (London Review of Books), Céline is also reviled for his infamous antisemitic wartime pamphlets.

War begins with Ferdinand waking in shock on the battlefield, grievously injured, with all his comrades sprawled out dead around him: it’s a scene of visceral horror, carnage, and pain.

The novel’s key idea—that trench warfare lodges itself in the soldier’s head forever, goes on destroying him, cuts him off from those who have not been on the front, and makes the hypocrisies of their safe world repugnant—drives itself under the reader’s skin, powered by the sheer velocity of Céline’s voracious, gritty, raw, graphic style.

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cover image of the book Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants

Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants

In 1506, Michelangelo—a young but already renowned sculptor—is invited by the sultan of Constantinople to design a bridge over the Golden Horn. The sultan has offered, along with an enormous payment, the promise of immortality, since Leonardo da Vinci’s design was rejected: “You will surpass him in glory if you accept, for you will succeed where he has failed, and you will give the world a monument without equal.” Michelangelo, after some hesitation, flees Rome and an irritated Pope Julius II—whose commission he leaves unfinished—and arrives in Constantinople for this truly epic project. Once there, he explores the beauty and wonder of the Ottoman Empire, sketching and describing his impressions along the way, as he struggles to create what could be his greatest architectural masterwork.

Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants—constructed from real historical fragments—is a thrilling page-turner about why stories are told, why bridges are built, and how seemingly unmatched fragments, seen from the opposite sides of civilization, can mirror one another.

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cover image of the book Compass


by Mathias Énard

Translated by Charlotte Mandell

With a contribution by Mathias Énard

As night falls over Vienna, Franz Ritter, an insomniac musicologist, takes to his sickbed with an unspecified illness and spends a restless night drifting between dreams and memories, revisiting the important chapters of his life: his ongoing fascination with the Middle East and his numerous travels to Istanbul, Aleppo, Damascus, and Tehran, as well as the various writers, artists, musicians, academics, orientalists, and explorers who populate this vast dreamscape. At the center of these memories is his elusive love, Sarah, a fiercely intelligent French scholar caught in the intricate tension between Europe and the Middle East.

With exhilarating prose and sweeping erudition, Mathias Énard pulls astonishing elements from disparate sources—nineteenth-century composers and esoteric orientalists, Balzac and Agatha Christie—and binds them together in a most magical way.

Winner of the Prix Goncourt (France), the Leipzig Prize (Germany), Premio Von Rezzori (Italy), shortlisted for the 2017 International Man Booker Prize, winner of the 2018 National Translation Award in Prose

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For all its sandstorm of scholarship, translated with tireless eloquence by Charlotte Mandell, Compass aches with…simple yearning.

The Economist
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