Thursday, August 20, 2020

248. Impressions of Africa

Impressions of Africa
Raymond Roussel
1910
Around 250 pages











Based on the title of the novel and the year it was written, I expected it to be something I would have to grit my teeth through. But I didn't expect it to be so bizarre in structure. I'm pretty sure Roussel was tripping his balls off when he wrote this. 

The first hundred or so pages of the book are descriptions of the elaborate contraptions King Talu has arranged for his party. After that, you learn that a group of shipwreck survivors are being forced to entertain the king in all manner of crazy ways. It gets a little gross, and corsets are employed in a way even more painful than usual. 

I think most of this is lost in translation. Apparently, Roussel did a lot of impressive things with puns and homonyms that are understandably absent in the English version. The whole thing seems like the kind of nightmarish writing exercise my more eccentric professors would assign and make us read out loud in college. I guess public humiliation is supposed to get your trauma juices flowing and make you a better novelist. I don't think it worked on me.

So if you are a French speaker who digs surrealism this may be the book for you. Also, if that's the case, tell me more about yourself, you seem interesting.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Roussel died of a barbiturate overdose at the age of 56. Thought to be a suicide.

Admired by Dali. Naturally. 

UP NEXT: Fantomas by Marcel Allain. What by whom?

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