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Friday, October 03, 2014

Locus Solus (1914) by Raymond Roussel

Map of Locus Solus, the estate of wealthy inventor Martial Canterel, in the book Locus Solus by Raymond Roussel

Book Review
Locus Solus (1914)
by Raymond Roussel
University of California Press

  Locus Solus is what you call a "surrealist classic" in that it is surreal, and widely read.  It is not a classic in the sense of adhering to some objective criterion about what makes for a "classic novel" though it is a novel.  Locus Solus is another entry in the "books I wish I'd read 20 years ago" with a plot that involves a mad scientist/inventor type, Martial Canterel, who invites some friends over to his vast country estate which is filled with a variety of bizarre experiments, including water that allows people to breath in it (and hairless cats) and a substance that reanimates corpses, causing them to endlessly repeat what they did immediately prior to death.

Author Raymond Roussel, surrealist author of Locus Solus (1914) and Impressions of Africa (1910)

 Locus Solus is exactly the type of book that will win you cool points with groups of artsy students and young people in cities world wide, but has limited relevance to anyone outside of literary circles or over the age of 30.  Any dedicated fan of the roots of surrealism will find Locus Solus a must, non fans should pass.  Of the two Raymond Roussel titles that made the 1001 Books list, I would say this, rather than Impressions of Africa, is the more accessible.  Impressions of Africa is barely readable, whereas Locus Solus scans as bizarre kind of H.G. Wells early science fiction type piece- familiar ground.

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