“Décapsule un oeuf.” (“Pop open an egg.”) Enter Palafox.
Eric Chevillard’s visionary play of word and thought has been compared to the work of Beckett, Michaux, and Pinget, yet the universe he spins is utterly his own. Palafox (Editions de Minuit, 1990), Chevillard’s third novel of eleven, explores the ecosystem of an unclassifiable yet enchanting, protean creature. A team of “experts” armed with degrees of higher learning is determined to label, train, pamper, baptize, and realize the elusive creature, while Palafox—driven by his own interior logic and flanked by another dimension for the most part on his side—effortlessly and wordlessly defies them all.
Imagine a comedy of manners, a supernatural tale, a sly commentary on science's quest for knowledge, a sad story about a creature that seems to possess characteristics common to marsupials, reptiles, and amphibians, not to mention insects and humans, and you have an inkling of what Eric Chevillard has done in his dark, disturbing, delightful, downright funny story of Palafox. Now mix into this brew some of Ronald Firbank's verbal fireworks, Italo Calvino's imaginative flights of exquisite writing, and Raymond Roussel's weird deadpan logic, and you get a little more of an inkling.
— John Yau
Eric Chevillard involves his reader in a powerful meditation on evil, foolishness, and inhumanity lurking in the heart of man.
— Jean-Maurice de Montremy
The current American new fabulism could learn a great deal from this very amusing book and its willingness to take real narrative risks...Beautifully translated by Wyatt Mason, Palafox is a must for anyone intersted in anti-realist fiction.
— Rain Taxi
Beautifully written . . . toys with the line between real and surreal . . . The prose is simultaneously smooth and startling. . . Mason’s translation is stunning.
The fun to be had in Palafox is more along the lines of that spark of pleasure found in a well-aimed cutting remark, or in that spark of insight when, after looking at a painting for 10 minutes, you suddenly realize you’ve just seen something.
— Conversational Reading
Elegant . . . Whimsical. . . . Reminiscent of Julio Cortázar and Borges. . . . Sentences caper musically to intricate patterns of wordplay.
— Review of Contemporary Fiction