Stephanie Bishop is a lecturer in creative writing at the University of New South Wales. Her new novel is Man Out of Time.
At some stage, we all claim to have reached the end of our line. That point where the buck stops, or our tether runs out; maybe both of these at the same moment. For most of us the term is figurative, the line an imagined one. Not so for Joseph Ponthus, whose extraordinary verse novel On the Line (Black Inc., translated by Stephanie Smee) charts his experience of working on the agribusiness factory lines in Brittany, France.
A social worker by training but unable to find employment in this area, Ponthus signs up to a temp agency, and the novel opens with him working in a fish processing plant. The work is dull and repetitive, but makes for exhilarating reading: Ponthus’s meticulous detailing of factory labour results in a hypnotic opening up of attention, as he deals with “Machine after machine / Where the prawns are / Defrosted / Sorted / Cooked / Refrigerated /...
Nothing without context. Politics, society, culture.