Winner of the 2009 Académie française Grand Prix du roman
In The Eleven, Michon lets us into the world of Corentin, a painter shaped by—and who eventually shapes—history. Brought up among provincial aristocracy to become a favorite of Parisian society—his paintings are commissioned by Louis XV’s mistress—Corentin’s career rides the tides of the French Revolution. His masterpiece, “The Eleven,” is an enigmatic Last Supper, representing the eleven members of the Committee of Public Safety (including Robespierre and Saint Just) during the Reign of Terror. Corentin and company, his work of art, and the historical tableau of the French Revolution come to life in dazzling, even painterly, detail. A potent blend of fact and fiction, The Eleven is a beautifully written, astute meditation on the nature of history itself and the artist’s role in it.
Offering the long view, as would a novel, of life as a concatenation of a great number of events between birth and death would not suit his stylistic inclinations. Instead, he focuses on a handful of scenes and musters his exceptional style — arguably, closer to the prose poem than to narrative prose — in an attempt to make them at once palpable and emblematic. Nothing is diluted; these are heady, compassionate distillations — like cognac.
— John Taylor, The Arts Fuse
Its feeling for art, its psychological acuity, its inclination for the grand statement, and its appeal to the lofty—are multiplied throughout The Eleven to glorious ends. I cannot recommend the book highly enough.
— Christopher Byrd, B&N Review
Michon's prose tends to slow down in order to oblige you to hear its rhythms and also to see and touch and smell what is happening beneath it.
— Harper's Magazine
Here Mr. Michon has taken his talents for speculation in a very powerful direction, by imagining a piece of history that ought to exist but doesn't. He has created a figure as seemingly real as any of the biographical figures he draws elsewhere, and thus has brought to history a new possibility. A brilliant, surprising book, The Eleven is historical fiction at its best: a wholly imagined work that scrutinizes and reconceives how we construct history, time and experience.
— The Wall Street Journal
The Eleven is a fascinating book. And one that makes you think.
— Le Monde
The emotion, the forceful claims of the imagery ... Michon achieves what other writers wouldn't try, licensed as he is by keen regret and transfigured loss. Michon misses the poetry of the past, and in missing it he possesses it.
— Benjamin Lytal
It will bring you to your knees.
— Le Nouvel Observateur
The painting 'The Eleven'. . . Michon describes it with such precision, with such force, that you start to think it exists.
Genius, completely dazzling and full of dread, dark and brilliant, as if radiating with a black light.
Just over 100 stunning pages. . .
[Michon's] aesthetic integrity and strict austerity have earned him the adoration of critics and made him worth teaching in every university.
— L'Express"A great book that, in an honest language, honed with gueuloir, was delivered to the world after years of labor, says the story."
— Le Magazine Litteraire