To research his thesis on contemporary agrarian life, anthropology student David Mazon moves from Paris to La Pierre-Saint-Christophe, a village in the marshlands of western France. Determined to understand the essence of the local culture, the intrepid young scholar scurries around restlessly on his moped to interview residents.
But what David doesn’t yet know is that here, in this seemingly ordinary place, once the stage for wars and revolutions, Death leads a dance: when one thing perishes, the Wheel of Life recycles its soul and hurls it back into the world as microbe, human, or wild animal, sometimes in the past, sometimes in the future. And once a year, Death and the living observe a temporary truce during a gargantuan three-day feast where gravediggers gorge themselves on food, drink, and language …
Brimming with Mathias Énard’s characteristic wit and encyclopedic brilliance, The Annual Banquet of the Gravediggers’ Guild is a riotous novel where the edges between past and present are constantly dissolving against a Rabelaisian backdrop of excess.
There is a capricious divinity at work here, and his name is Énard.
A feast of pathos and pleasure, and a shimmering argument for the interconnectedness of everything.
— The New Yorker
Despite its macabre title and subject matter, this novel is a capacious celebration of life, love and language… Énard is wickedly, brilliantly, subversive of sanctity.
— Ruth Scurr, The Guardian
Death is enlivened by a constant proximity to the human beings, animals, and other occupants of the excessively material world that saunter, stomp, or bumble through Énard’s pages. It ravages and renews with a fecundity that echoes out into the countryside to which Mazon (much to his surprise) finds himself warming…Mazon’s account of his wayward life in the village is frequently funny, and this particular sense of humour is honoured by Frank Wynne’s lucid, textural translation.
— Issy Brooks-Ward, The Arts Desk
The Annual Banquet of the Gravediggers’ Guild is an earthy, Rabelaisian riot of a novel, dripping with slime, bugs, gluttony, death and bawdy decay… A dizzying concoction…which carries a surprising tenderness.
— The Economist
The real story becomes history, the fluidity of time, the democratizing powers of death, and — through a stew of Buddhist, Christian and Islamic philosophies — the cyclical jumble of life. This is Énard at his best...
— Martin Riker, The New York Times
Every novel by Mathias Énard reminds me of the reasons why I read fiction. He is ambitious, erudite, full of life, and a wonderful stylist to boot. He is one of the great novelists of our time.
— Juan Gabriel Vásquez
Mathias Énard is one of the best contemporary French writers, and his works—ambitious, erudite, multifaceted, surprising and unconventional—are always worth reading, because they always strike a perfect balance between the best that literature can offer: pleasure and knowledge.
— Javier Cercas
In Mathias Enard’s magnificent new novel, they banish the ghosts by feasting on a grand, Rabelaisian scale. Through a meal that takes in innumerable courses, boisterously parodic speeches and industrial quantities of fermented grape juice, Enard guides the reader through a history of eloquence, which runs from Boethius to Bossuet, and a story of the French palate that leaves no dish unturned.