By Jean Rolin
Translated by Max Welshinger
Savannah is a starkly tender and intimate recollection by French writer and journalist Jean Rolin of his friendship with British Vogue photographer Kate Barry. Both humorous and insightful, it in many ways serves as the epitaph to her life, which ended in a fall from her fourth-floor apartment in France. Barry was a very close friend of Jean Rolin, and together the two of them made a trip to the United States to retrace the footsteps of Flannery O'Connor, a Southern writer for whom Kate was deeply impassioned. In 2014, after Barry's death, Jean Rolin wanted to revisit this trip and reconstruct the memory of their journey in her absence.
As he recreates his roadtrip over the course of this book, which ends, fittingly, in Savannah, Rolin evokes landscapes, characters, and a uniquely Southern atmosphere that underscores the relentless passage of time. Juxtaposed against the themes of loss and mortality, Jean Rolin evokes with light touches the figure of Kate. His incredible descriptive talent shines through in vivid descriptions of the South; he approaches his travel memoir with the accuracy of a documentary and the vibrant writing of a poet, and his memories of Kate are preserved beneath the motif of sucking the marrow out of life and keeping death at bay.
“Jean Rolin is a companion with whom one can walk as one hears his clear and dispassionate voice, his wry humor . . . ‘One day I’ll have to tell this story, the story of my heroic death and the ensuing revolution,’ he announces on the final page. I look forward to this.” -Christian Authier, Le Figaro
“Like Sebald, Rolin is a master of sentence structure, honing his syntax with considerable elegance, allowing his sentences to reach beyond normative bounds in an effort to bring forth meaning more fully. He is not afraid to loiter here and there, taking his time to develop ideas he finds upon his way, as it were. Though the radiator hose explodes, there is no explosion of truth. Instead, through a deftly ironical and dispassionate gaze, Jean Rolin focuses most closely upon small things, the very ones which in the aggregate compose the fabric of existence in the first world, in the third world, or indeed in a fictional world.” -World Literature Today
Jean Rolin, born in 1949 in Boulogne-Billancourt, is a writer and journalist. His novel The Explosion of the Radiator Hose was published by Dalkey Archive Press in 2011. He was awarded the French Language Prize in 2013.