“This brief fable-novel is funny, sad, scary, and beautiful. i love it.”
Ursula K. Le Guin
In a windowless building in a remote part of town, a newly employed young woman, Josephine, inputs an endless string of numbers into something known only as The Database. As the days inch by and the files stack up, Josephine feels increasingly anxious in her surroundings―the office’s scarred pinkish walls take on a living quality, the drone of keyboards echoes eerily down the long halls. When one evening her husband Joseph disappears and then returns, offering no explanation as to his whereabouts, her creeping unease shifts decidedly to dread.
"A tightrope walk over the abyss, where the stakes are total, and the prose is exuberant and taut, dire and playful."
“Are we pawns in the thrall of bureaucratic (Kafka) or totalitarian (Orwell) systems? Or are we, in fact, the ones with ultimate power; the arbiters — even unknowingly — of life and death? Helen Phillips deftly interrogates this existential divide in her riveting, drolly surreal debut novel, The Beautiful Bureaucrat.
The New York Times Book Review
"Told with the light touch of a Calvino and the warm heart of a Saramago, this brief fable-novel is funny, sad, scary, and beautiful. I love it."
Ursula K. Le Guin
"Helen Phillips’ The Beautiful Bureaucrat has the compulsive quality of a mystery and the furious urgency of a fever dream. I picked it up and read it everywhere: on the subway, over breakfast, in bed when I should have been sleeping, at work when I should have been working. It will coax you into its world with the crystalline precision of its prose, so full of heart and strangeness it might even crawl into your own dreams and find you there."
"The Beautiful Bureaucrat is a thrillingly original debut, formally inventive and emotionally complex. Helen Phillips is one of the most exciting young writers working today, and I envy those who get to discover her work here for the first time."
"Equal parts mystery, thriller, and existential inquiry, Phillips’s book evokes the menace of the mundane”.
The New Republic
"The Beautiful Bureaucrat reads like Borges in Brooklyn, with its cerebral pleasures buttressed by Helen Phillips’ precise, resonant depictions of love, marriage, sex, and terrible apartments. It bends from uncanny to unsettling and ends at very deeply satisfying."
"A satisfying parable of love and life, death and birth, and the travails of transposed numbers. The Beautiful Bureaucrat reads like a thriller."
"Helen Phillips is a funny, subversive, enigmatic, melancholy wonder. With And Yet They Were Happy she produced one of my favorite recent story collections and now, with The Beautiful Bureaucrat, she has written one of my favorite recent novels, equal parts Franz Kafka and Lydia Davis, a narrative in which the perplexities of work and marriage gradually change their colors to display the perplexities of birth and death. When these pages reached my hands, my first thought was this: Helen Phillips is publishing another book, which means that I can, briefly, revel in it until I start looking for her next."
"In the bleak hallways of bureaucracy, Helen Phillips explores what it means to make a life one’s own. The Beautiful Bureaucrat is a page-turning mystery, a love story and a revelation."