Ink In The Blood by Stéphanie Hochet, translated by Mike Mitchell (Deladus, £7.99)
I picked up Ink In The Blood because I thought it must be about a person
with my obsession with writing. I was rather miffed to discover that Sang d’encre, as it was called when Stéphanie Hochet first wrote it, actually refers to tattooing; an exercise and outcome I find as attractive as a pestilent plague boil.
Also, the book is very short and I’m not a short book man. I like a fat tome. My ideal novel is about two kilos.
But then I discovered two things: first, this book is one of a series produced by Deladus Euro Shorts to offer European literature that “can be read cover to cover on a Eurostar journey”; and second, that it is as easy to put down as a leaking superglue tube.
So what converted me from a prejudice against both its size and its subject? Well, being small, it is remarkably condensed. There’s not an unnecessary adjective, an ill-considered diversion or a unmerited description. But this potent monologue has an involving and fascinating plot and fruitful allusions to markings and rituals and taboos: at the most basic, “we all want to leave some trace”. And this thoughtful and clear young writer has a fund of epigrammatic phrases: marriage is “happiness decreed by contact”; the anonymous narrator decries “the whorish aspect of fashion”; and “people are never short of imagination when it’s a matter of being vulgar’.
I still wonder about it being suitable for a Eurostar journey, though. Apart from the pain of discarding a book of any size, Ink In The Blood is so tightly written, you’ll probably want to re-read it on your way back. I generously offered to test this theory empirically, but when I mentioned possibly expensing a cross-Channel trip, the editor said I could have a similar experience if I took the Underground to Amersham and back.