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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Sleepworker

Cyrille Martinez

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To purchase The Sleepworker

Title: The Sleepworker
Author: Cyrille Martinez
Genre: Novel
Written: 2011 (Eng. 2014)
Length: 108 pages
Original in: French
Availability: The Sleepworker - US
The Sleepworker - UK
The Sleepworker - Canada
Deux jeunes artistes au chômage - Canada
The Sleepworker - India
Deux jeunes artistes au chômage - France
Giovani, artisti e disoccupati - Italia
  • French title: Deux jeunes artistes au chômage
  • Translated by Joseph Patrick Stancil

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Our Assessment:

B+ : clever, fun take on a slice of the writing/art life

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Globe and Mail . 12/12/2014 Jade Colbert
Libération . 27/8/2011 Mathieu Lindon

  From the Reviews:
  • "Martinez employs a smart-aleck, deadpan humour from the first line (.....) The Sleepworker celebrates the simulated, the surface, its own not-quiteness. Like its young protagonists, it does so with reckless confidence. At 108 pages the style is not overdone -- a light and captivating session of rumour." - Jade Colbert, The Globe and Mail

  • "Constamment inventif, le livre fait aussi la part belle au sommeil." - Mathieu Lindon, Libération

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Sleepworker establishes itself early as a novel of the New York art world, its opening chapters focused on the city -- here "New York New York" -- and the invention of a variation on an exaggerated version of what Soho once was, a neighborhood zoned specifically for artists and in which art thrived. Martinez posits a "Writers' Quarter", whose success is so great that soon only writers live there, and the only non-writers who ventured there were those involved in various support services -- from "bankers in banks for writers" to housekeepers ("in maids' costumes (or the nudist version)"). He presents New York New York as the epicenter of the writing world, and the Writers' Quarter the epicenter of that epicenter.
       The only writers that count, however, are novelists, with poets relegated completely to the sidelines -- to the extent that:

     And New York New York could present itself as a poetless land, a great novelists' city.
       The story itself, however, does not focus on any of the writers from the quarter, but rather those on the fringe, artists such as would-be poet John. John's other great talent seems to be sleeping, and his friend Andy, an artist in his own right, eventually finds the ideal role for John to assume:
     By asking John to embody the Sleeper, Andy is inventing a job that makes the most of his friend's expertise: permanent fatigue, a constant desire to sleep, pleasure while sleeping, the quality of his body at rest. It's delicate work, but it's still work, a little work likely to provide the benefits generally associated with working
       The three central interacting characters are Andy, John, and filmmaker Jonas. Their names, and how they are presented, are clearly meant to suggest Andy Warhol, John Giorno, and Jonas Mekas, but even just to say that Martinez's characters are based on this real-life trio feels misleading. Of course they are, and of course the use of their names, and descriptions of the goings-on at the Factory-like 'Workshop', are meant to evoke Warholian associations, but ultimately these characters are as removed and different from their real-life counterparts as Martinez's New York New York is from the actual city.
       It's an inspired fantasy Martinez spins out, addressing immigrant, artistic, and homosexual experience, among other things, much of it with the immediacy of the present tense and the author's inclusive voice ("Since we last saw Andy, several months have passed"). There's a nice universal, timeless feel to it too, with a setting that's not era-specific, Martinez suggesting both the 1960s as well as a more contemporary period (and including technology not available in the corresponding real-time).
       It's both a clever send-up of Warholian art and an homage to it, Martinez's own invention, and his deadpan voice, perfectly capturing the Warholian spirit. While perhaps not ideally structured -- Martinez perhaps getting carried away by his clever ideas (such as the Writers' Quarter) without fully integrating some of them in the larger story -- The Sleepworker bounds along very entertainingly.
       A nice piece of work.

- M.A.Orthofer, 14 January 2015

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The Sleepworker: Reviews: Other books by Cyrille Martinez under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature

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About the Author:

       French author Cyrille Martinez was born in 1972.

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