THE CONFESSION OF A FALSE SOUL by Ilarie Voronca
Translated by Sue Boswell
Hats off to the random bookseller in Dubai who stuck this book on the Staff Picks shelf because Ilarie Voronca’s The Confession of a False Soul is one of the most delightfully bizarre books I’ve read in a long while. It’s the story of a lowly finance clerk who, having made little of his life, decides his soul is damaged and in need of replacement. Lucky for him, it’s wartime, and plenty of fresh souls - young, idealistic, valiant - are there for the taking. So off he goes to the clinic for a transplant. After a little haggling (a good soul’s expensive!), he decides on a young soldier who recently fell on the battlefield.
Voronca writes with such confidence that none of this seems remotely preposterous. It’s fun and funny, but also packs a philosophical punch. The clerk and his new soul duke it out over some great existential issues (mostly surrounding what constitutes a life meaningfully lived), their repartee witty and profound. Throw in a sweet love story and some pretty weird tangents – there’s a whole chapter on the greatness of garlic – and you’re left with an obscure but genuine little masterpiece of absurdist fiction.
The Confession of a False Soul by Ilarie Voronca (Tr. Sue Boswell)
Snuggly Books, 2021 (Orig. 1942)