What is perhaps most striking about Tell Them of Battles, Kings and Elephants is its slightness. The latest work to appear in English by Mathias Enard – the heavily garlanded darling of French letters – is something of a departure from previous offerings. Whether it’s the monolithic heft of the 500-page, single-sentence Zone or the Prix Goncourt-winning Compass, we’ve become used to associating Enard with a broader publishing trend: the multipurpose literary novel that you can either read or use as a doorstop. Tell Them of Battles is an all-round thinner affair, and not merely because of its length.
Born in France, a resident of Barcelona, a scholar of Arabic and Persian, and the proprietor of a Lebanese restaurant, Mathias Enard explores in his writing the collusions and collisions between East and West. If we were to indulge in some metaphorical thinking, we might liken his oeuvre