Interlinguistic Planetary

Unmoored from time and space in a quasi-dystopia, two men are brought down to earth by a mysterious film

The surrealist novel begins life at a disadvantage: it must work hard to gain a reader’s trust. In place of mimesis it offers a dreamscape, a tilted horizon, a distorting lens. It sacrifices the depth of its characters for an oblique commentary on character in general, its mutability, its constituent elements, its materialist foundations. The surrealist novel insists we lack agency; stripped of our anchors we are all fated to drift in strange waters.

Ghostly and hollow, the central characters of Pierre-Luc Landry’s slim second novel, Listening for Jupiter (originally published in French in 2015 as Les corps extraterrestres), drift in this way, existing in apparently parallel worlds, meeting only in an undefined space, possibly in dreams, each character unsure whether the other is real until an unexplained convergence dissolves whatever membrane of space and/or time had divided them. Xavier is a...