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ISBN 978-0-9930093-2-7
First published June 2017; 160 pp
paperback; 180 x 120 mm
£10.99

Noémi Lefebvre is the author of three novels, all of which have garnered critical success in France: L’Autoportrait bleu (2009), L’état des sentiments à l’âge adulte (2012) and L’enfance politique (2015). She is a regular contributor to the website Médiapart and to the bilingual French-German review La mer gelée.

Sophie Lewis is an editor and translator from French and Portuguese into English. She has translated Stendhal, Jules Verne, Marcel Aymé, Violette Leduc, Emmanuelle Pagano and João Gilberto Noll. In 2017 she was commended for the Scott Moncrieff Prize for her translation of Héloïse Is Bald by Emilie de Turkheim.



 
 
Noémi Lefebvre  Blue Self-Portait

translated form the French by Sophie Lewis
 

       Published by Les Fugitives


‘It’s funny, it’s engaging, it’s fiercely intelligent and it often teeters on the edge of being deeply moving. In short, it’s a very good book.
    ‘This is a text filled with ideas, with cultural and artistic references, and also the recurring motif of a cow grieving for the loss of its calf, removed at birth. It is a novel about displacement, about loneliness, about disconnection and the fear of disconnection, about family and love, about art and regret; in a short work it is a deeply exploratory tone, and its content in combination with its long sentences and huge paragraphs make for a demanding read, but one that is very rewarding. We are in Berlin, we are in France, we are in a plane; we are between countries and places and present and past, we are between different minds and different moments ... Lefebvre’s narrative is rich and engaging, and Lewis’s translation – which I imagine must have been a tough one to do – never falters for a moment. This is a weighty, literary, text, and other than length it is not a “small” book. It is ideas and emotion-rich, and it’s definitely worth your time.’
    – Triumph of the Now (full review here)


The inner monologue of a woman haunted by German composer Arnold Schoenberg’s portrait, following a complex romantic encounter with an American-German pianist-composer in Berlin. As the irresistible, impossible narrator flies home she unpicks her social failures while the pianist reaches towards a musical self-portrait with all the resonance of Schoenberg’s passionate, chilling blue. A contemporary novel of angst and high farce, Blue Self-Portrait unfolds among Berlin’s cultural institutions but is more truly located in the mid-air flux between contrary impulses to remember and to ignore. Yet music is shown to continue to work on and through us, addressing past trauma while reaching for possible futures.

L’autoportrait bleu calls to mind fine lacework, all fancy stitching, a delicate succession of interconnected loops. Nothing but beautiful work here. In this devilishly virtuosic text, which also evokes contrapuntal music, Noémi Lefebvre writes like a genuine composer. It’s rare to find a writer successfully able to lend a musical shape to their text. Lefebvre has taken up the challenge in this astonishing, vertiginous account.’ 
– Le Figaro littéraire

‘The dense, fine-tuned, ever perfectionist writing in this debut novel reinforces its immediacy, grips the reader to the point of obsession.’ 
– L’Humanité 

This book is supported by the French Institute (UK) as part of the Burgess programme, and is the recipient of a translation grant by the Conseil National du Livre (CNL)