Publication Date: May 10, 2016
List Price US $12.99
List Price US $15.95
Trim Size (H x W): 5.5 x 8.25
This best-selling debut novel from one of France’s most exciting young writers is based on the true story of the 1949 disappearance of Air France’s Lockheed Constellation and its famous passengers
On October 27, 1949, Air France’s new plane, the Constellation, launched by the extravagant Howard Hughes, welcomed thirty-eight passengers aboard. On October 28, no longer responding to air traffic controllers, the plane disappeared while trying to land on the island of Santa Maria, in the Azores. No one survived.
The question Adrien Bosc’s novel asks is not so much how, but why? What were the series of tiny incidents that, in sequence, propelled the plane toward Redondo Mountain? And who were the passengers? As we recognize Marcel Cerdan, the famous boxer and lover of Edith Piaf, and we remember the musical prodigy Ginette Neveu, whose tattered violin would be found years later, the author ties together their destinies: “Hear the dead, write their small legend, and offer to these thirty-eight men and women, like so many constellations, a life and a story.”
Excerpt from Constellation
The “Airplane of the Stars” is living up to its name today. Besides the “Casablanca Clouter,” the violin virtuosa Ginette Neveu is also setting off to conquer America. The tabloid France-soir organizes an impromptu photo session in the departure lounge. In the first snapshot, Jean Neveu stands in the center smiling at his sister, while Marcel holds the Stradivarius and Ginette grins across at him. Next, Jo takes Jean Neveu’s place and, with his expert’s eye, compares the violinist’s small hands with the boxer’s powerful paws.
Then on the tarmac, at the foot of the gangway, the two celebrities continue their conversation. Ginette gives the details of her tour: Saint Louis, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York. Marcel offers her front-row seats for his rematch at Madison Square Garden and promises to attend the concert at Carnegie Hall on November 30. Maybe they can have dinner together at the Versailles, the cabaret where the Little Sparrow has been packing the house for months.
The four enormous Wright engines of the Lockheed Constellation F-BAZN are droning. The propellers and blades have been inspected, and the eleven crew members line up in front of the plane. The big, beautiful aircraft, its aluminum fuselage perched on its outsized undercarriage, looks like a wading bird. In the boarding queue are thirty-two other passengers. [ . . . ] Left behind are two newlyweds, Edith and Philip Newton, returning home from their honeymoon, and Mme Erdmann. The three were bumped when the champion received priority seating.
“Slender yet ambitious . . . the author’s metacommentary transforms the narrative into a profound meditation on the far-reaching interconnectedness of tragic events.”—Publishers Weekly
“Adrien Bosc meticulously and beautifully pieces together the destiny of the 46 passengers aboard the Constellation with a depth of imagination and heart that renders these long lost lives palpably present. It is the work of a gifted and elegant writer, one who seems to instinctually know how to breathe life into a fictional world.” —Dinaw Mengestu, author of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears
“A novel of realism propelled by Bosc’s energy and unique imagination. The mysterious plane crash of Constellation in 1949 is revived within the pages of this magical novel.” —Gay Talese, author of The Bridge and A Writer’s Life
“Sublime, haunting, exuberant, Constellation turns a tragedy into a miracle. In reviving the victims of a doomed 1949 Air France flight, Adrien Bosc writes beautifully about coincidence and fate, including the greatest coincidence at all—that we are alive on earth together for a short time. Constellation is a novel of profound humanity.” —Nathaniel Rich, author of Odds Against Tomorrow
“Adrien Bosc’s Constellation is a thrilling and humane reimagining of a plane crash, blending fact and fiction to reanimate a fading moment in history. A bold and spare novel that reminds us what fiction can do.” —Jonathan Lee, author of High Dive
“Constellation takes huge risks in its recreation of a tragedy, risks that are more than justified by this intelligent, moving and hugely affecting novel. His sketches of both the famous and unknown are masterfully concise portraits of lives we come to cherish, even in the moment of their death. This, combined with a dazzlingly idiosyncratic narrative, makes Adrien Bosc’s debut a novel of considerable power and imaginative invention.” —Stuart Evers, author of Your Father Sends His Love
“[Bosc’s] first novel shines . . . The young writer releases the men and women from their unidentified tombs . . . to place them on the best of literary biers. Part fiction, part historical investigation, and part tribute, Constellation is radiant.” —Le Figaro
“Adrien Bosc, the author of [Constellation] and also the founder of the journals Feuilleton and Desports, dug through archives, investigated through the Internet, unearthed evidence to reproduce the last moments of these prematurely shattered lives.” —L’Express
“The writing is clear, brilliant, and streamlined, the construction is wise . . . There is in Bosc a bit of Hergé and of Leibniz.” —Le Nouvel Observateur
“[Bosc] weaves together the connections between these people and the events of their times, searches to understand why he started out on this process, halfway between literary journalism and fictional adventure, in this unsolvable investigation where at every turn the fictional fights with the real.” —Libération
“Shows great promise…With his Constellation, the fireworks have only just begun.” —Livres Hebdo
“[Bosc] has unearthed astonishing biographies . . . Bosc, twenty-eight years old, has already demonstrated a curiosity, and his appetite shows here. A coroner who is attentive to the smallest clues, he searches through the debris, revives the dead, notes the hands of fate.” —Le Point
- Had you ever heard of the Constellation and its doomed flight before? What other stories of doomed travels do you know, and how are those stories typically recounted?
- The epigraph for Constellation reads, “Sometimes the directions we take in our lives can be decided by the combination of a few words.” In the novel, how does Adrien Bosc put that into practice?
- How does Bosc detail all the “happy coincidences” (p 13) of the Constellation flight to create a feeling of inevitability?
- Constellation has a series of lists (see pp 22–23 and 28–29). Why do you think Bosc provides these lists? What effect do they have on your reading?
- On page 118 Bosc writes, “This book is not [a prosopopoeia].” What is it? How would you describe this novel to someone who hasn’t read it?
- Other than their shared flight and fate aboard the Constellation, what other details connect the passengers to one another?
- Why do you think Bosc writes a novel about the Constellation instead of a history of the flight? In what ways would a nonfiction account of the Constellation differ from this novel? In what ways is this novel like a nonfiction account?
- Has Constellation inspired you to look further into the lives of any of the people it brings back to life?