Title: The Universal Bureau of Copyrights
Author: Bertrand Laverdure
Translator: Oana Avasilichioaei
Publication Date: October 2014
Synopsis from Goodreads:
From multidisciplinary artist Bertrand Laverdure comes UNIVERSAL BUREAU OF COPYRIGHTS, a bold, strange, and addictive story that envisions a world where free will doesn’t exist, and an unnameable global corporation buys and sells the copyrights for all things that exist on the earth, including real and fictional characters. Part narrative-poetry, part sci-fi-dystopian fantasy, readers become acquainted with the main character, a man who deconstructs himself as he navigates the mystifying passages of the story. Having no control over his environment, time continuum, or body, he is a puppet on strings, an icon in a video game and, as he eventually discovers with the bowels of the UNIVERSAL BUREAU OF COPYRIGHTS, the object of countless copyrights.
I’m finding this a difficult book to review because it is unlike anything I’ve ever encountered outside of academic study. I enjoyed it in its absurdity, it’s shockingness, and it’s willingness to challenge traditional narratives. Bertrand’s translated voices pulls, no coaxes, you along through the unfortunate tale of the main character. His limbs and digits are taken from him and we realize he lives in a world where he has no control, not of his body, his life, or even his death. He ends up with a mesmerizing, singing, wooden leg and a fully functioning arm made of chocolate. He loses his fingers and eventually loses control of his body and his sensory ability.
This book will push you to challenge your notion of what a novel is and of what storytelling is. The story is poetic in its unfolding, often disjointed in a way that mirrors the content of the story. The reader is put into the character’s place, feeling lost, uncertain, tentative, or afraid, as the story carries you along.
One of the things I really loved about this story is that it is metafictive. It is a story that knows it is a story. The tale often refers to the main character. A “literary tourist” challenges the main character: “What are you doing to the fictions original ecology? You’re nothing but a mediocre patch-it-upper!” (111), as if the main character is ruining the story as he plunders along through this unfamiliar world. Chapter 7 is where we can really see this book introducing itself as a work of metafiction. In Chapter 7, we meet all of the “literary tourists” who are described as people “who haven’t necessarily read the book, but who have followed, with guide and road maps, our hero’s adventure” (44). The book here directly acknowledges itself as a book and it’s main character as a character. It is not parading around as fiction disguises as reality. It understands its fictiveness. Having studied metafiction in detail in university, I find this book fascinating and would definitely recommend it for any metafiction course.
Overall, a very unique story. A challenging, but enjoyable read.