Bardo or Not Bardo


by Antoine Volodine

April 12, 2016
novel | pb | 165 pgs
5.5" x 8.5"

Winner of the 2017 Albertine Prize

“Irreducible to any single literary genre, the Volodinian cosmos is skillfully crafted, fusing elements of science fiction with magical realism and political commentary.”  
—Nicholas Hauck, Music & Literature

One of Volodine’s funniest books, Bardo or Not Bardo takes place in his universe of failed revolutions, radical shamanism, and off-kilter nomenclature.

In each of these seven vignettes, someone dies and has to make his way through the Tibetan afterlife, also known as the Bardo, where souls wander for forty-nine days before being reborn with the help of the Book of the Dead.

Unfortunately, Volodine’s characters bungle their chances at enlightenment: the newly dead end up choosing to waste away their afterlife sleeping or to be reborn as an insignificant spider. The living aren’t much better off and make a mess of things in their own way, to the point of mistaking a Tibetan cookbook for the holy book.

Once again, Volodine has demonstrated his range and ambition, crafting a moving, hysterical work about transformations and the power of the book. (Read an Excerpt)

Translated from the French by J. T. Mahany


About the Author: Antoine Volodine is the primary pseudonym of a French writer who has published twenty books under this name, several of which are available in English translation. He also publishes under the names Lutz Bassmann and Manuela Draeger. Most of his works take place in a post-apocalyptic world where members of the “post-exoticism” writing movement have all been arrested as subversive elements. Together, these works constitute one of the most inventive, ambitious projects of contemporary writing.

About the Translator: J. T. Mahany is a graduate of the MA in Literary Translation Studies program at the University of Rochester and is currently studying for his MFA at the University of Arkansas. He has previously translated Volodine's Post Exoticism in Ten Lessons, Lesson Eleven, also available from Open Letter. He won the 2017 Albertine Prize for his translation of Bardo or Not Bardo.


“His quirky and eccentric narrative achieves quite staggering and electric effects. . . . Dazzling in its epic proportions and imaginative scope.” 
The Nation