Dedicated to classics and hits.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Impressions of Africa (1910) by Raymond Roussel

Book Review
Impressions of Africa (1910)
 by Raymond Roussel

  I'm not one of those people who says, "You have to read x in its original language."  However, I would say that when you are reading a book that is based on formal restraints based on homonymic puns (in French.)  Since neither homonyms NOR puns typically translate between languages, that makes reading Impressions of Africa in English nearly incoherent.  Basically, the entire book is "about" these European visitors who are stranded in an African city, watching a series of carnival esque escapades.  Near as I can tell, they are a group of people who are invited to this African city by the despotic ruler, only to be kidnapped by a bandit-king type on the way out of town.  I think.

  The idea of creating art around formal constraints is of course at the heart of any "classical" aesthetic, though not specifically.  One can think of Matthew Barney's early work which is LITERALLY him working against literal physical restraints (the drawing restraint series) or Lars Von Trier with his 'Dogme 95' set of film making rules, meant to create a "more authentic" film art.  Unfortunately when the formal restraints are homonymic puns in a different language, a contemporary reader is left in the dark.

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