On the Line by Joseph Ponthus, Stephanie Smee | Black Inc.

On the Line

Book club notes

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About the author

Joseph Ponthus

Joseph Ponthus (1978–2021) worked for over ten years as a social worker and special needs teacher in the suburbs of Paris. He was co-author of Nous … La Cité (The Suburbs Are Ours) and his masterpiece À la Ligne (On the Line) …

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Read an extract

On the Line
Stephanie Smee

Stephanie Smee left a career in law to work as a literary translator. Recent translations include Hannelore Cayre’s The Inheritors and The Godmother (winner of the CWA Crime Fiction in Translation Dagger award), Françoise Frenkel’s …

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Praise for On the Line

‘From the uniformity and repetition of the production line, Joseph Ponthus finds humour, grace and humanity. A unique and deeply affecting novel.’ —Ryan O’Neill

‘Poetic and political, lyrical and realistic, Joseph Ponthus’ spirited elegy is at once surprising, captivating and affecting.’ —Télérama

‘A work that is powerful, clever, benevolent, optimistic even. Essential reading.’ —Causette

‘A hard-hitting work, flabbergasting, unprecedented, written entirely in unbridled verse, a sort of Victor Hugo–like fable of the ages depicting the present day.’ —Siné Mensuel

On the Line is not just an extraordinary debut novel, it is also a hard-hitting work that is, dare I say it, essential.’ —L’Express

‘A literary tour de force.’ —Bretons

‘The magnificence of this novel derives in part from the marriage of form and content, with the verse line evoking a literal manifestation of this experience. On the Line is marked by a heady admixture of brutality and tenderness, elevated throughout by Ponthus’s philosophical hunger and gratitude for common life.’ —Stephanie Bishop, The Monthly

‘Few books immediately suspend time; few need no warm-up and almost demand to be read, reread, underlined. Stephanie Smee’s rendition of Joseph Ponthus’s multi-award-winning first solo book, On the Line: Notes From a Factory, is one such read.’ —Australian Book Review

‘You don’t need to be a poetry aficionado to be stirred by the understated beauty of Ponthus’s writing, and Stephanie Smee’s superb translation, nor to be moved by the world that Ponthus paints and probes. A world in which the vicissitudes of factory life are illuminated with wit and wisdom, and joy can be found twinkling where you least expect it.’ – Rosie Eyre, European Literature Network

‘Joseph Ponthus has managed to elevate the mundane to the sublime … Read – and reread – this to cherish the cosmic joy in the everyday.’ —Good Reading

‘Ponthus is an outsider by virtue of his education, but he shows throughout a genuine love and respect for his colleagues … The unadorned, direct, demotic language, expertly rendered by the translator, Stephanie Smee, is also a tribute to the lives they have to lead. —Hilary Davies, Times Literary Supplement

‘On the Line found a way out of the habitual range within which literary politics operate’ —Ariana Harwicz & Ariana Saenz Espinoza, Astra Magazine

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