Translated from by

Published: February 7th, 2023





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Book Description

Aliocha is racing toward Vladivostok with other Russian conscripts packed on a trans-Siberian train. Soon after boarding, he decides to desert. Over a midnight smoke in a dark corridor of the train, the young soldier encounters an older French woman, Hélène, for whom he feels an uncanny trust. He manages through pantomime and a basic Russian that Hélène must decipher to ask for her help. As they hurry from the filth of his third-class carriage to Hélène’s first-class sleeping car, Aliocha becomes a hunted deserter and Hélène his accomplice with her own recent memories to contend with. Eastbound is both an adventure story and a duet of vibrant inner worlds. In evocative sentences gorgeously translated by Jessica Moore, De Kerangal tells the story of two unlikely souls entwined in a quest for freedom with a striking sense of tenderness, sharply contrasting the brutality of their surrounding world.

In interviews, de Kerangal has reflected on the importance of being a “contemporary writer”—someone who holds “all the layers of time together.” This does not mean, I think, that she mixes them, but that they remain striated, defined, like an ancient lake seen through the window of a passing train via a smartphone screen . . . It takes immense skill, patience, and clarity to paint time, to render the melee of past and present, symbolic and real. Language may not be what allows us to see it, but in the right hands we can get close.
Lauren Oyler, The New Yorker

In Maylis de Kerangal’s luminous vision, conveyed by the inspired translator Jessica Moore, Siberia’s immensity dwarfs human perspective. The insecurity of existence across this vastness and on board the train emphasizes the significance of human connection. In a time of war, this connection may bring liberation and salvation.
Ken Kalfus, New York Times

Eastbound briskly unfolds the events of this crazy but thrilling little Mission: Impossible, allowing itself speedy diversions into the backgrounds of both Aliocha and his accomplice . . . . The crisp cascading sentences; the delicious mixture of fear and romance; the harmonious balance of story and language: these are characteristics of each of Ms. de Kerangal's books.
Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

Though first published in France 10 years ago, there is a contemporary resonance to this slender tale of a young Russian conscript, Aliocha, trying to escape the army on the Trans-Siberian railway and encountering Hélène, a fellow fugitive in flight from her own past.
Ángel Gurría-Quintana, Financial Times, "Best Books of 2022"

An antiwar story in which no bullets are fired and not a single battle is fought . . . Sneakily funny . . . As he anxiously ponders the “woolly mauve wilderness,” in translator Moore’s inspired phrasing, it’s evident that Aliocha is a casualty of the militaristic posture that has such a warping effect on people and nations.
Kevin Canfield, World Literature Today

Impeccable . . . De Kerangal’s triumphant achievement is powered by mellifluous prose with a rhythm as steady as the train. Readers are in for a dazzling literary ride.
Publishers Weekly, starred review

Virtually every moment of this slim, gripping, gorgeously translated novel takes place aboard a smoky, congested trans-Siberian train rushing east. Among the passengers are 100 Russian army conscripts in third class, one of whom is a scared, tragically innocent 20-year-old named Aliocha, who’s desperate to desert before the sickening train reaches its destination . . . Eastbound is riveting whether or not you read it with the war in Ukraine in mind . . . Aliocha meets an older French woman, Hélène, who’s got her own problems . . . Though they can only communicate in gestures, Aliocha begs for Hélène’s help, and the lengths they eventually go—and the repercussions—will do a number on your heart.
Jeff Giles, Vanity Fair's BEST BOOKS OF 2023

Eastbound is a novella told in a single breath, quick as a light turned on; intense, precise, unconditional, potent. Jessica Moore’s translation is masterful.
Anne Michaels

As a choreographer knows, if you place a man and a woman on the stage even in an abstract ballet, you already have a story. As Maylis de Kerangal, one of the three or four best French novelists working today, reveals, the story need not be one of physical desire but of shared loneliness and the longing for escape—and of mammalian empathy
Edmund White

In this timely novella about a Russian military conscript defecting from the army, 20-year-old Aliocha is on the Trans-Siberian railway from Moscow to Vladivostok, spanning almost a quarter of the Earth’s circumference . . . A balance of internal thought and external action propelled by a narrative that races on in long sentences, keeping things flowing beautifully in between moments of drama.
John Self, The Guardian

A sense of uncertainty about one’s place in the world is central to Eastbound by Maylis de Kerangal, translated by Jessica Moore, not only because the central characters are on a train bound for Siberia and never quite know where they are but also because they are attempting to escape without any idea of what it is they are escaping to. When we first meet Aliocha, he has been conscripted into the Russian army and is terrified about his near future. He feels no comradeship with the hundreds of other conscripts who are also on the train heading to Vladivostock. When he encounters Hélène, a French woman who has impulsively boarded the train after leaving her Russian boyfriend, their mutual understanding transcends language and she discerns what it is that he needs her to do if he is to avoid his unsought future. Using unadorned prose, de Kerangal constructs anxious moments, which defy any sense of inevitability or conclusion.
Declan O'Driscoll, The Irish Times

In this slim, sleek tale that hurries along at the speeding train’s clip, de Kerangal draws on classic train capers while also poetically, ravishingly conveying the immensity and harsh beauty of this haunted land of exile and torment . . . With each new novel, de Kerangal secures her place as a writer of stunning, incisive, enrapturing fiction; it’s a boon to have this sensuous, soulful, and suspenseful earlier work so gorgeously translated into English by Jessica Moore.
Donna Seaman, Booklist

Richly atmospheric and full of suspense, Eastbound combines a vibrant account of one of the most magical train journeys in the world, with a narrative of a double escape, depicting an unlikely alliance of a French woman trying to leave her lover by travelling in the wrong direction, and a heartbreakingly young Russian draft dodger. It takes a great writer to manage all that so convincingly in one hundred and twenty thrilling pages.
Vesna Goldsworthy

Beautiful writing is the first thing that grabs a reader of Eastbound.
Deborah Dundas, Toronto Star

The fever burning through this story, and its lyrical escapes don’t curb its sensuality, and precision. [Kerangal’s] language has an incredible driving force. It is both like a stone made up of many crystals, mixing registers with fluidity, and juxtaposing the poetic and the trivial. The whole thing has a unique rhythm, a sense of breathless speed: the sort of graceful rockslide that only she can pull off. In flux between interior and exterior, this is the perfect voyage.
Le Monde des Livres

A tense, poetic novella . . . Aliocha, a reluctant conscript, was heading for a period of military service that was bound to be, in the Russian tradition, brutish, unpleasant, and scarred by vicious bullying . . . It is hard to read Eastbound now without moving it into 2023 and imagining that Aliocha’s ultimate destination will be the killing fields of Ukraine and death in the pursuit of a tyrant’s atavistic dream.
Andrew Stuttaford, The New Criterion

The English translation of Eastbound features evocative, descriptive prose that constructs the world of Aliocha and Héléne in brilliant detail without slowing the relentless momentum of the story.
Ryne Clos, Spectrum Culture

Eastbound is a compassionate thriller, one where suspense is created around the question of whether one person will aid another. It asks us to remember our humanity and the humanity of others. something which goes beyond nationality and language.
Grant Rintoul, First Reading

This 127 page gem of a book should be in print now with all the news of new conscripts in Russia reluctantly heading to Ukraine. Aliocha is a new conscript heading to Siberia, miserable, who befriends Hélène, a Frenchwoman, traveling East on the same train. Beautifully written and translated, this book packs a current punch in its very relatable story.
Annie Philbrick, Mystic Books

On the Trans-Siberian railroad an encounter between a young Russian conscript and a French woman becomes a gripping tale of loneliness and escape. Told with lyrical precision, Eastbound is a rare feat: razor sharp and abundant in human emotion. It’s difficult to think of a writer who does so much, so well, in so few pages. Breathtaking.
Mark Haber, Brazos Bookstore

Taut and tense with moments of pure beauty. One thrilling train ride across a foreign landscape that allowed me to experience a conscript’s desperate plight and the connections that can bloom between strangers in unexpected moments.
Hannah Harlow, Book Shop of Beverly Farms

Meet Helene & Aliocha, a pair of people seeking to leave similar but utterly distinct circumstances: he is a young Russian kid avoiding military conscription; she is a French woman approaching middle-age, fleeing a relationship that has left her existentially stranded and without comfort in Siberia. They encounter one another in the dark corridors of a train on the Trans-Siberian railway, and become, over a cigarette, unlikely compartment-mates and co-conspirators. His desperation interacts with her isolation in remarkable ways, given that they do not share a language. Their harrowing adventures include the avoidance of a lecherous military bureaucrat, as well as a tangle with the corps of former Soviet operatives working as train attendants. All the while, the pair must parse the strained, vivid memories & experiences of their respective pasts (and presents) as they are both propelled towards an uncertain future.
Danielle King, Left Bank Books

An emotional thriller in miniature, this slim, brisk book had me on the edge of my seat and emotionally invested in these characters until the very end. The poetic language is the work of a singular and transfixing talent.
David Vogel, Literati Bookstore

In mysterious, winding sentences gorgeously translated by Jessica Moore, De Kerangal gives us the story of two unlikely souls entwined in a quest for freedom with a striking sense of tenderness, sharply contrasting the brutality of the surrounding world.
James Harrod, Malaprop's

The exciting tension permeating the novel reminds me of the accounts of escapes that Solzhenitsyn recounted in Volume 3 of The Gulag Archipelago. Aliocha’s desperate and confused efforts to run away compels our sympathy; the suspense over whether he will be caught or not is riveting.
Russian Life

Set aboard the Trans-Siberian Express, Eastbound is a stunning, propulsive, and suspenseful novella of fugitives, flight, and freedom … Thundering like a juggernaut, and teeming with nerve-wracking tension, Eastbound soars thanks to Kerangal’s gorgeous, haunting prose with its musical cadences and potent energy.
Radhika Pandit, Radhika's Reading Retreat

This is no Brysonesque travelogue but a taut, tense work using the train as a backdrop for a story of two very different people . . . Eastbound is an intriguing book . . . in the hands of an accomplished writer and translator, a book that you’ll fly through.
Tony's Reading List

From the opening pages, de Kerangal’s prose carries the emotional intensity swelling in the cramped quarters of the train, the Siberian landscape rushing past the windows, and the increasingly fraught atmosphere of the station breaks without dropping a beat . . . [De Kerangal’s] characters emerge as full-bodied, conflicted individuals and the suspense, which starts out as a simmer, builds to an intense boil.
Joseph Schrieber, Rough Ghost

Jessica Moore’s translation meets the pivoting demands of De Kerangel’s prose — preserving the terse, staccato sentences that relate action inside the train, and ably handling the flowing descriptions of the Russian landscape . . . Without a common language, Aliocha and Hélène operate in parallel, each one a closed system incapable of fully intersecting. Their relationship, born of coincidence more than abiding connection, illuminates the fraught relations between the West and its Russian antagonists.
Tara Cheesman, On the Seawall

Eastbound is a marvel. Racing through space and time like a train, Maylis de Kerangal perfectly captures the dual nature of fleeing and entrapment. Jessica Moore’s translation conveys an impeccable tension—how will a soldier escape the crisis of enlistment? I loved this book.
Makenna Goodman

I read Maylis de Kerangal’s short novella Eastbound earlier this year, which is about a young Russian conscript who, once aboard the Trans-Siberian rail, decides to desert and meets a French woman who helps him. I haven’t stopped thinking about it . . . De Kerangal reminded me how transportive it is when an author successfully creates that itching desire to know what happens next—without forgoing an ounce of style.
Maya Chung, The Atlantic Daily Newsletter

Inner and outer immensity is luminously portrayed in this novel. The narrative might tunnel in to describe Hélène registering the “slowed down flow” of Aliocha’s blood, as he sleeps in her train compartment, or pull back for the monotony of what’s outside the train window . . . a gorgeous English translation by Jessica Moore.
Debra Spark, Frenchly

A fleet story that seems almost detached from time, told with sentences of such staggering beauty I could hardly believe it. This transported me entirely.
Owen Elphick, Main Point Books

In quick strokes, de Krangel vividly depicts the violence of bureaucracy, the casual cruelty of its puppet-like actors and the absurdity of human societal traps, while focusing on the immediate suspenseful journey through a vastness that threatens to swallow them both. Don’t miss this gem!
Will Peters, Annie Bloom’s Books

Praise for The Heart (also published as Mend the Living)

The Heart is an unusual and often-ravishing novel . . . de Kerangal’s long, rolling sentences pulse along in systolic thumps, each beat punctuated by a comma; they’re packed with emotional intensity
Jennifer Senior, The New York Times

I read The Heart in a single sitting. It is a gripping, deceptively simple tale—a death, a life resurrected—in which you follow along as everyone touched by the events is made to reveal what matters most to them in their lives. I was completely absorbed.
Atul Gawande, author of Being Mortal

From its first, hurtling, paragraph-long sentence, this novel vividly dramatizes each step in the organ-donation process . . . It’s the kind of science writing that’s too uncommon, inspiring wonder not by insisting on it but by chronicling every detail.
The New Yorker

I’ve seldom read a more moving book . . . De Kerangal is a master of momentum, to the extent that when the book ends, the reader feels bereft. She shows that narratives around illness and pain can energize the nobler angels of our nature and make for profoundly lovely art. One longs for more.
Lydia Kiesling, The Guardian

Layered, meditative . . . illuminated in rich language . . . This novel is an exploration not only of death but of life, of humanity and fragility . . . the story is propelled by a series of recognitions — incremental, articulated, human moments: narrative earthquakes that break open and pull us deeper into the story.
Priya Parmar, The New York Times Book Review

A novel that goes to the heart of what it means to be a human being.
Amanda Hopkinson, Independent

The Heart is, quite simply, breathtaking in its linguistic precision and impressive in its narrative vision, a feat of textual dexterity made visible in English by Sam Taylor's excellent translation.
Alexandra Primiani, Music and Literature

Urgent, breathless, visceral prose . . . Long after reading this extraordinary novel that etches itself in the mind, it will be impossible to forget.
Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

Praise for Painting Time

There is something magnificently true about De Kerangal’s fiction, which braids technical fluency with winged prose . . . 'Capsules of pure sensation' – it’s a description worth stealing to describe this novel, which is strung together image by beautiful image. This is writing that defies haste, that slows the eye . . . one of contemporary fiction’s most gifted sentence builders.
Beejay Silcox, The Guardian

Who else writes with such poetry about the tools of trade, and the intricacies of work? Michael Ondaatje springs to mind, but Maylis de Kerangal is mining a rich and individual seam.
Jonathan Gibbs, Times Literary Supplement

Celebrated French novelist Kerangal . . . is a master of the metaphysical bildungsroman . . . [An] enthralling tale of vocation, discovery, and love . . . Kerangal balances the gloriously sensuous with the deeply reflective in an exquisite and omniscient streaming narration as she explores the title's implications . . . Kerangal’s elegant, sexy, subtly Proustian, and fluidly dimensional drama of discipline and passion, imitation and imagination is resplendently evocative and exhilarating.
Donna Seaman, Booklist

Praise for The Cook

A slim, bountiful, beautifully written (and gorgeously translated) 'Portrait of the Chef as a Young Man.'
Nancy Klinke, The New York Times Book Review

Brief but superb . . . the book is restrained, private, and careful.
The New Yorker

This short book, beautifully translated by Sam Taylor, reads like a prose poem . . . de Kerangal’s food writing is incantatory; the accumulation of minutiae hypnotic . . . I was left hungry for more.
Moira Hodgson, Wall Street Journal

Eastbound was included in Publishers Weekly’s roundup of the best books of the week.

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