HOUSES OF RAVICKA, BY RENEE GLADMAN
The newest addition to Renee Gladman’s Ravicka series, Houses of Ravicka is an effortless waltz between dream and reality. This surreal, three-part novel begins with the story of Jakobi, the gender-flickering comptroller of Ravicka whose job it is to find no. 96, an elusive house in the district of Skülburg that lies on a “parallel geoscog referential” to its chimerical twin, house no. 32 in cit Mohaly. Though not an easy journey (Jakobi is, by turns, anxious, lonely, hungry, and vexed, in part one, and distracted in part two by long-lost friend Hematois), it’s a wildly rewarding one for readers. In prose that is funny, elegant, and highly original (among the words Gladman invents: gurentij, tij, pareis), Gladman grants us access to new parts of Ravicka, a place that is equal parts city-state and “strange, unknown body that seemed to be in conversation with its inhabitants and seemed to believe direct communication was possible.”
In part three, the text both advances the plot and hovers just above it, becoming a poetic meditation on what it means to see, to be seen, and to create in Ravickian architectures of time and space. Ultimately, it is the tension between these more cerebral flights and the mundane—more so than plot or language—that moves Houses of Ravicka forward: the way Gladman’s keen sense of the ordinary (Jakobi enjoys lamb for lunch, discusses tea with a colleague) rubs up against the wonderfully imaginative (twin pairs of houses that move, and act as guides to one another) and even the philosophical. All of these levels (the quotidian, the abstract, the speculative…), Gladman is telling us, are not only worlds we inhabit, but invitations; each of them is an architecture we must care for, must grapple with, must construct.