Siege of Comedians
Siege of Comedians is a novel in triptych told through interconnected threads pulled taut by crimes long ago relegated to history.
In the first piece, an American forensic sculptor, reconstructing the faces of three victims receives a midnight, visit from a man who threatens her life unless she alters the faces she’s almost completed. The twists and turns of the mystery lead her to a new life, working with forensic archeologists at a site near the Prater amusement park in Vienna.
In the second section, an accent coach discovers that the man implicated in the death of his girlfriend in 1970s Buenos Aires was once a censor and Assistant Minister of Propaganda in Vienna during World War II. When bodies start turning up under the former Propaganda offices, some date from the war period—but others are much older, their origins going back to the Ottoman siege of Vienna.
In the final arc, in the aftermath of the last battle between the Austrians and the Turks, a local businesswoman finds three displaced women from Istanbul—former wives of the sultan—wandering in Vienna and gives them shelter in her brothel, located on the site of the future Ministry of Propaganda.
Connected across time by intersecting crimes and themes of language, cultural assimilation, and nationalist conflicts, Siege of Comedians, part political thriller, part comic noir, reflects on aspects of the current refugee crisis, human trafficking, and identity
“Ebullient ... Daitch finds stimulating connections and writes with sharp irony and joy. This offers delights on every page.” —Publishers Weekly
“Daitch’s singular genius is to take from its grimed and cobwebbed neglect what might be called the palimpsest of history and selectively restore its lines and erasures until, to our horror and delight, we begin to recognize ourselves. Siege of Comedians is a brilliant and enthralling novel, a noir diamond reflective of our collective dark history and formed under the weight of a million missing-persons cases.” —Eugene Lim, author of Dear Cyborgs
"Historical reconstruction takes both figurative and literal forms in Susan Daitch’s ingenious contrapuntal novel Siege of Comedians," a triptych of interconnected stories. - Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir
"With shades of Umberto Eco and Paul Auster, this brilliant, addictive adventure novel is about the search for a mythical lost city located somewhere in modern-day Iran. As a succession of explorers and shady characters dig deeper into the landscape, the ancient secret of Suolucidir is gradually revealed. This is brainy, escapist fiction at its best."—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
A series of archeological expeditions unfolds through time, each one looking for the ruins of a fabled underground city-state that once flourished in a remote province near the border of present-day Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Sealed off for centuries by seismic activity, Suolucidir beckons with the promise of plunder and the glory of discovery, fantasies as varied as the imaginations of her aspiring modern-day conquerors.
As the tumult of the twentieth century's great wars, imperial land grabs and anti-colonial revolutions swirl across its barren, deserted landscape, the ancient city remains entombed below the surface of the earth. A succession of adventurers, speculators and unsavory characters arrive in search of their prize, be it archeological treasure, oil, or evidence of crimes and punishments. Intrigue, conspiracies, and counter-plots abound, and contemporary events interfere with each expedition, whether in the form of the Axis advance, British Petroleum, or the Revolutionary Guards. People disappear, relics are stolen, and the city closes in upon itself once more.
A satiric, post-colonial adventure story of mythic proportions, The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir takes place against a background of actual events, in a part of the world with a particular historical relationship to Russia and the West. But though we are treated to visual "evidence" of its actual existence, Suolucidir remains a mystery, perhaps an invention of those who seek it, a place where history and identity are subject to revision, and the boundaries between East and West are anything but solid, reliable, or predictable.
More praise for The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir:
"Susan Daitch has written a literary barnburner of epic proportions. The question buried at the core of The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir is one of empirical—or is the imperial?—knowledge itself. Her labyrinthine tale of archeological derring-do calls to mind both 1984 and 2666, and does so by looking backward in time as well as forward. It is also utterly original, the work of a visionary writer with an artistic sensibility all her own."—Andrew Ervin, author of Burning Down George Orwell's House
"Susan Daitch's The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir is a daring undertaking, the creation of an ancient land of fantastic proportions, its borders touching other countries we think we know while still remaining elusive and mysterious. This is a novel of archeology and history, of mythology and empire, powered by an undeniable call to adventure and a deep yearning for understanding, written by a novelist who manages to surprise on nearly every page."—Matt Bell, author of Scrapper
"In The Lost Civilization of Suolucidir, history is revealed as ghost and prankster, archaeological remnant, information feed. This search for a vanished city takes in rare book rooms and obituaries, travel records, borders drawn and redrawn by war, boxes of records from a sanatorium where Kafka stayed, a statuette of Disney's Aladdin, and quotes from Ignatz Mouse and Samuel Johnson. Where is the city? Where are we? We are lost, and will one day be someone else's Suolucidir, at best. In the meantime, Daitch's latest is a beguiling and virtuoso companion to our inevitable end: a novel that wrenches, sentence by fine sentence, some order from the chaos, while never shortchanging the chaos itself."—Mark Doten, author of The Infernal
Paper Conspiracies is a novel that circles the Dreyfus Affair, linking players far from the trial's main stage: petty forgers, photographers, cross-dressers, actors in an early silent film by Georges Méliès that documents the trial, and a film restorer who's trying to save that crumbling movie nearly a hundred years later.
"This erudite page-turner takes us from late 19th-century France to the film studios of the great Georges Méliès to the tribulations of a film restorer who finds herself caught up in political intrigue, a century after the famous Affaire Dreyfus. As in her celebrated L.C., she constructs a compelling dialogue with an earlier century that shifts our perspective on our own time." —Susan Bernofsky, author of Foreign Words
"It's Susan Daitch at her finest! A smart, absorbing study of those at the margins of history who, under her deft pen, turn out to be vital. Fascinating story, captivating writing." —Deb Olin Unferth, author of Revolution: The Year I Fell In Love and Went to Join the War and Vacation
Susan Daitch's recent novel, Paper Conspiracies, is in large part concerned with the production and meaning of Méliès's 1899 The Dreyfus Affair. Taking this movie as its subject, Paper Conspiracies reminds us, in a way that Hugo does not, that we actually do live in the world that Méliès created.
J. Hoberman, The Guardian
The distinctions between art and life are blurred in this unsettling and tantalizing first collection of short fiction by novelist Susan Daitch (The Colorist, L.C.). In fifteen stories, all concerning displacements of the ordinary, characters restore or duplicate art objects (legally and otherwise), dub dialogue for foreign films, and look to old movies for guidance. In the title story (based upon a legendary amusement park in upstate New York), a woman works at a children's theme park, where Alice in Wonderland mourns for the Sheriff of Nottingham, who has joined the marines. From Dalkey Archive.
"Startling in their intelligence and the breadth of their reimagining history the stories in Storytown are carefully detailed narratives that resist the comforts of traditional narrative devices."
James Surowiecki, The Village Voice Literary Supplement
"These are fine and moving stories about the death of meaning, about persons trying to decode the seas of signals in which they float and drown, failing. Their flaw is their triumph: they try -- and so the stories are also about courage, that most tragic of virtues. This is an important collection by one of the most intelligent and attentive writers at work in the U.S. today."
David Foster Wallace
"Daitch’s stories are packed with packed with historical, philosophical and artistic references and jammed with signs and meanings. They also have a forward momentum and aren’t in the least bit stogy. In her playful manipulation of genres and her cool essayistic style, she’s surely a direct descendent of Borges. With these stories, ...Daitch reveals herself to be a supremely accomplished writer who combines erudition with social conscience in a matchless tone of slightly pained irony."
Charlotte Innes, L.A. Weekly
A dazzling, elegantly funny, multilayered novel by one of the most imaginative young writer to emerge from postmodern New York. The Colorist is the story of Julie who make her living filling in panels of a comic book, of Electra, a displaced comic book heroine, and the gifted and felonious inhabitants of the urban shadowland where art and commerce intersect.
"Now that we’re in the midst of a renaissance of interest in cartoons and comics, here’s a story set in the comic book industry, complete with workaday details. But The Colorist aims more to confound clichés than to copy them. The novel is a complex of refracted story lines that rewrite and revise the tales of a few "discontinued" characters. The Colorist should be read for
Ms. Daitch’s drop dead writing style and the pleasure of joining her literary shell game."
Kate Lynch, The New York Times
"An observant eye... Her vision of New York is one of a cartoon city where anything is possible, where real-life adventures resemble the antic happenings of a comic strip."
Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"The Colorist is lush, dense; a book of dreamlike intensity, one where we must listen for the echoes to understand the patterns. Check it out. Really worthwhile/highly recommended."
David Ulin, The Los Angeles Reader
Susan Daitch's first novel is a complex and unique look at the controversial nature of historical representations. This story within a story within a story opens in 1968, with a preface to Dr. Willa Rehnfield's translation of Lucienne Crozier's diary. Although the authenticity of Lucienne's account is uncertain, her diary attests to her involvement in the 1848 revolution in Paris, an illicit love affair, and her eventual exile from France.