Aunt Rachel's Fur

Aunt Rachel's Fur

by Raymond Federman
     
 

In Aunt Rachel's Fur, Raymond Federman—French by birth, American by adoption, Jew by memory—plays with the language of his childhood to construct a story from digressions. Federman's narrative spirals into a temporal abyss as he rummages in old memories tattooed with cabbages, plump breasts, and the Final Solution. His book swirls with the

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Overview

In Aunt Rachel's Fur, Raymond Federman—French by birth, American by adoption, Jew by memory—plays with the language of his childhood to construct a story from digressions. Federman's narrative spirals into a temporal abyss as he rummages in old memories tattooed with cabbages, plump breasts, and the Final Solution. His book swirls with the narrative innovations that mark him as a leading experimenal surfictioneer.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Between Namderef's "Playgiarism" and Federman's "auto-bio-graffiti," an eclectic and ribald novel emerges, of family strife, class conflict, and French Jewishnes."
The New Yorker

"Those with more adventurous palates will find it interesting and highly entertaining."
PopMatters

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Novelist R mond Namredef, the narrator of this endlessly inventive and unorthodox fiction, is on his way back to France after having lived in the United States for 10 years. R mond is not returning in the role of the rich American, although he claims to have a wealthy American girlfriend, Susan. In the U.S., it seems, he supported himself through a series of odd jobs, among them one as a jazz musician. These autobiographical details are imparted by R mond to a "professional listener" in a number of cafes in Paris. Federman has adopted Raymond Roussel's trick of telling a story for the sake of its digressions. The digressions here include R mond's childhood, his life in hiding from the Nazis during the occupation, his multitudinously scheming extended family and his Aunt Rachel's legendary existence. Aunt Rachel escaped from the orphanage in which R mond's mother, Marguerite, was also kept and proceeded to enjoy a mysterious international career. At the end of the war, she returns to visit the family, clothed in a very expensive fur. The fur represents success and sexuality, but it also represents the life of luxury, calm and satisfaction that has eluded R mond. The novel proceeds from conversation to conversation, the talking punctuated by a bit of desultory action notably, R mond's lunch date chez M. Laplume, a famous writer, where he meets the editor of a publishing house and tries to impress her with his sophistication, hoping vainly that she will take his novel. Federman, who was born in France but has spent his adult life teaching and writing in the United States, is the grand old man of American experimental writing; hopefully his reputation won't daunt potential readers of this novel, which is extremely accessible and funny. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781573660938
Publisher:
University of Alabama Press
Publication date:
04/28/2001
Edition description:
1
Pages:
280
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt



Chapter One

OH YOU WANT TO KNOW WHY ...


Oh so you want to know why I came back to this country, this stinking country, why after ten years, tennears over there, in Amerrr-ica, I decided to come back here ...

Oh no, not for a vacation ...

Tourism ... you must be kidding, not me, I hate monuments, they depress me, and here in La Belle France all their monuments, all their statues smell of the dead, how morbid ...

No I didn't come back for that, and certainly not to see the family, well what's left of it, ah my family, what a bunch of bastards, cheaters, thieves, radins, all of them, aunts uncles cousins, wallowing in guilt and envy, everyone envious of the other, but I suppose it's like that with all families...

Used to be a large family, eight brothers and sisters on my mother's side, nine on my father's side, but on that side only three cousins left, the rest, all of them, remade into lampshades, but on mother's side, they all survived ...

Except my...

No, I can assure you, it's not to say hello, coucou me voilà, here I am, still alive, that I came back to France after ten years over there, ten fucking years of stumbling from one misfortune to another ...

Okay, so I could say I came back because I love Paris, ah Paree, the place in the world where humanity has reached the highest intellectual level, therefore it's here that one finds the highest form of suffering, in Paris one suffers from not suffering enough, but that's not the reason why I came back ...

You have to understand, things were not going very well for me over there in America, you can say that again,not at all, no steady job, no place of my own, broke all the time, depressed, lonely, sad, homesick, lost in the great disenchantment of American reality, lost in the Walt Disney illusion ...

Lonely, ah yes, lonely too, no real friends, nobody, and then one day, inevitably, kicked out from that crummy furnished room in the Bronx full of cockroaches, talk to me about American modernity, there wasn't even a fucking toilet in the room, it was down the corridor, and did it stink in there, eight bucks a week I was paying for that hole in the wall, that sad pathetic hole in the wall, in the Bronx ...

Yes, thrown out of my apartment because I couldn't pay the rent, what could I do, always broke, no education, no profession, so all I could get were miserable temporary jobs, you think it's fun to be a dishwasher in filthy grease joints, I tell you, the shit that fell on me from all sides, yeah, talk to me about shit, I've seen it in all colors, all forms, shapes, textures, hard, soft, smelly, dégoulinante, parfumée, wait till you hear the rest of this story, you'll see the shit, and on top of that, the chick I was shacking up with dumped me, like I was a piece of shit, a burnt-out lightbulb ...

We had a fight, about money, Susan was rich, that's her name, but American women who have money you cannot imagine how stingy they can be, and Susan she was loaded, she had inherited a million dollars, yes one million from an old aunt in Boston, can you believe that, I'm not exaggerating, one fucking million bucks, I was dumbfounded when she told me, I would have married her immediately if she'd let me, with all that dough we could have been so happy Susan and I ...

Ah Susan, that's really her name, but me I always called her Sucette, you know Sucette, like a lollipop, because she always gave me fantastic blow jobs, I don't know where she learned, but I tell you, for a rich puritan American, a Wasp from Boston, Sucette when it came to sucking, wow ...

What a fight we had, I had borrowed 50 bucks from her to pay my rent in the Bronx, but instead of paying the rent I lost the money in a poker game in Brooklyn, some dumb assholes I met in a bar, so I tried to borrow another 50 from Susan, and that's when we had that fight, she told me I was irresponsible, I'd never learn, you should have seen her face, when Susan gets angry, she's even more beautiful, more sexy, she told me I was irresponsible, that I had no sense of human relations, thatthaaat thaat thaat iiiiiaieaiiii, she was so angry she started stammering, she who always speaks so clearly, so correctly, wow was she beautiful, Susan, maybe a bit grassouillette, you know a bit too rounded, especially around the ass, but sexy like hell, with boobs like grapefruits, nice and firm, me I like them nice and firm, the skin, soft and milky, and eyes, big blue eyes which changed color whenever her moods changed, she has oceans of all colors in her eyes, sometimes calm, other times stormy, ah Susan, Susan, did she love to screw, yes, it's too bad, in a way we loved each other ...

Okay, you see what a lousy situation I was in, really piss poor, alright, so I was writing, working on a novel, my first novel, and normally, I've been told, a guy is supposed to suffer when he writes a novel, and when it comes to suffering I own all the records ...

My novel ... you want to know what it's about ...

Alright, quickly, more or less the story of my life up to ... up to now, well, a version of my life, you know what I mean, it's hard to stick to the facts when the fever of recitation grabs you, one version among many possible others, somewhat distorted, exaggerated, accelerated, embellished, and greatly romanticized, what the hell, what's the point of writing your life if you can't improve it a bit, one can only tell the truth, I mean the real truth, with detours and lies, it's an old dictum, and besides, the only way a life can pass for literature is through exaggerations ...

So, I was writing a novel, my first one, I was at it already two years when I decided to pack it in and get the fuck out of that stinking country ...

Wow, was I fed up with America ...

So, you want me to tell you more about the novel, okay just a few words, since you insist, it's the story of a guy who locks himself in a room for one year with boxes of noodles, 365 boxes to be exact, one per day, he calculates, to write a novel about a guy who locks himself in a room for one year with 365 boxes of noodles to write the story of his life, does that make sense to you ...

Yes noodles, pasta ... you see the guy doesn't have much money; that's why he chooses noodles to write his novel, noodles are cheap and they keep forever, as you can see it's a story of survival, the guy swears not to come out of the room before he finishes his novel, and since he has very little dough, he decides that he will survive only on noodles, in his case it's okay because the guy loves noodles, like me, I adore noodles, give me a good portion of baked macaroni sprinkled with Parmesan cheese on top and I can last forever ...

Well, enough of that, I'll tell you more about A Time of Noodles later ...

Yes, that's the title of the book the guy is writing, A Time of Noodles, but now I want to tell you why I was fed up with America and why I dropped the damn place to come back to my ... my mother country ...

You see what really bugged me over there was the reality of America, reality, my ass, you want me to tell you something, nobody gives a damn about reality, and you know why, because reality is always a disenchantment, la réalité c'est du bluff, I think it's Rimbaud who said that, reality is fake, or maybe it's somebody else, another mad poet, doesn't matter ... what makes reality fascinating at times, it's the imaginary catastrophe that hides behind it, especially behind the American reality, I could tell you a few things about the catastrophe of American reality, I know what I'm talking about ...

Here let me tell you more about America and my misfortunes over there, ah the U.S.A. what a disaster, and for me, ten years of disaster, ten years of dégringolade, you want to know why I came back to Paris, I came back to see if I could start a new life, a quiet normal regular life, finish my novel, about the guy with the noodles, have it published by a good maison d'édition, and after that ... after that, we'll see, maybe find myself a cute sexy gonzesse who will make me happy, a nice girl, less stingy than Susan, but I must tell you, it was not an easy decision to come back to this ... ce fumier de pays, that's because of what happened here during ... during my childhood ...

Ah my childhood, what a hole, what an abyss of misery, did I eat shit when I was a kid, you wouldn't believe it, wait till you hear ...

I was so fed up with America, the great American dream, more like a nightmare, a nightmare of misery, violence, loneliness, bigotry, racism, greed, and everywhere, everywhere failures who still believe in the American dream, drunks, winos, jobless homeless bums who sleep on the sidewalk in cardboard boxes or wrapped in newspapers, bag ladies who push their little buggies from one garbage can to another, dope addicts with eyes like oysters, and everywhere cowards, assholes, religious fanatics, crooked politicians, hillbillies who speak the language as if they had marmalade in their mouth, and what's more, car salesmen, ah yeah the car salesmen, thousands, millions of car salesmen who sweet talk you while trying to put one over on you, they all look the same, they all dress the same, they're like clones of each other, have you ever tried to buy a car in America, it's a total rip-off, pure unadulterated swindling, those miserable car salesmen what a bunch of crooks, and that's not all, that's not all ...

Wait, you don't think that's all I have to say about America, about this Amer Eldorado ... America the land of misrepresentation ...

They always tell you in America that the products you buy have been improved, on every box, every bottle you buy for cooking, cleaning, make yourself look better, smell better, feel better, crap better, on all the boxes, bottles, and packages it says in large letters, IMPROVED, do you realize what that means, it means that the products you bought before must have all been shit since they had to be improved, does that make sense to you, do you get the logic of American business, that means that the soap, the toilet paper, the toothpaste, the shaving cream, everything you bought before this so-called improvement was an inferior product since it needed improvement, as it is said on the boxes and the bottles and those fucking plastic bags you have to fight with to open them, on all of these it says, in large letters, IMPROVED, it's unbelievable, that means that a bunch of fucking bastards, those who fabricate these products, try to have the rest of the population believe this kind of bullshit, and it's the same thing for what they call the FAMILY SIZE ...

The family size ... oh you don't know what it is, you don't have la taille famille ici en France, you guys are really retarded ... well the family size, it's a box or a tube or a container which is bigger than the normal size and in which, supposedly, there is more stuff, more merchandise, but of course that's not true, it's another one of those stick-it-up-your-ass misrepresentations from the big businesses, for instance, you buy a tube of toothpaste, regular size, let's say you pay a buck 79, and out of curiosity, to inform yourself, or just for the fun of it, to pass the time, you decide to count the number of squeezes in the tube you bought, the regular-size tube, a squeeze is the amount of toothpaste you normally put on your toothbrush when you brush your teeth, that's obvious, doesn't matter if you brush in the morning, in the evening, or after each meal, basically a squeeze is a squeeze, for the sake of our discussion, let's say that all squeezes are more or less equal, I'm inventing a bit here for the commodity of the story, let's say then that you count 60 squeezes from your regular size tube, 60 seems like a good round number for an ordinary tube, this way if you brush your teeth regularly, morning and evening, as your dentist recommends, then your regular tube will last you exactly one month, but you, you're not very rich, you want to economize, so the next time you buy toothpaste you get the family size, which costs $2.29, therefore, 50 cents more, in America, by the way, all the prices always end with a 9, that's another one of their tricks, to make you believe that's it's cheaper, that you pay less than if it were a dollar 80 or 2 dollars 30, I call that the penny deception, what can you do with that penny, that lousy little penny they give you back, that useless penny that you stick in a box or in a drawer somewhere and is lost forever ...

Bon je continue, so you just bought yourself a family-size tube of toothpaste, personally I prefer Colgate, excited because you think you saved, you go home and start counting the number of squeezes in this family size tube, on which it says, in large letters, not only IMPROVED but TWICE AS MUCH TOOTHPASTE AS IN REGULAR-SIZE TUBES, however, to your surprise, your disarray, when you have finished counting, at most there is perhaps half a dozen more squeezes in this larger family size, therefore, once more, you've been had, the tube seemed bigger, larger, it even felt bigger in your hand when you squeezed it, felt like ... like a cock in erection, but in fact it was an illusion, the motherfuckers they put air into the tube, yes lots of empty air instead of toothpaste, and that's true of all brands, always the same whether it's Colgate, Polident, Pepsodent, Close-up, Aquafresh, Crest, Smeardent, Merdedent, whatever the name, always more air than merchandise ...

So now you see how capitalism uses merchandise to deceive you, to make you suffer, to torture you, to ... to ... well you know what I mean ...

What ... oh you want another coffee, okay, me too ... garçon ... allo garçon, encore deux cafés s'il-vous-plaît ... Hey can I bum a cigarette...

That's okay, I like Gauloises ... you got a match ...

Okay, I was telling you how in America they always get you with their improved products and their family size, I told you, it's the land of misrepresentation, and also the land of repetition and duplication ...

They say America is a melting-pot where anyone can become whatever he wants to be, bullshit, me, I'll tell you what it is, not a melting-pot, but a stewing pot, a huge marmite in which the exploited, the oppressed, the dispossessed, the displaced are slowly being cooked for the benefit of those who exploit, oppress, dispossess, displace them, the second third and fourth class citizens, the Afros, the Chicanos, the Red Skins, the Good-for-Nothings, the Underprivileged, The Rabble, oh you want more, I got more, here, I'll give you a whole list, in neat columns, of what the Americans call each other in the stewing pot ...


The Stewing Pot ...


Spades 
Spooks 
Spics 
Schwartzes 
Coons 
Chinks 
Colored 
Niggers 
Commies 
Commi Crappola
Chosen People 
Jigs 
Jungle Bunnies 
Pinkos 
Pansies 
Red Skins 
Gooks 
Hebes 
Kikes 
Yids 
Youpins 
Black Beauties 
Bleeding Hearts
Freaks 
Yentas 
Atheists 
Weirdos 
Dumb Pollacks 
Dingbats 
Dumb Bells 
Meatheads 
Micks 
Fairies 
Fruits 
Queens 
Fags 
Lesbos 
Goyem 
Four-eyes 
Daigos 
Sheenies 
Punks 
Yankees 
Pussy Eaters
Frogs 
Frenchies 
Krauts 
Bums


And there is more, much more, the Americans, what an amazing collection of ethnic eponyms, you should hear that extraordinary language, that's the beauty of the English language, its richness, its inventiveness, that much must be said for it, maybe when they tell you in America anybody can become a millionaire, maybe they mean a millionaire of words ...

Words, that's about all I got from America, a million useless words, which I can barely pronounce ...

You want to know where I learned all these words ...

Watching TV, working in factories, in the army, in the streets of New York City, in the black ghettos, that's where you learn how the Americans refer to each other, especially the upperclass when they refer to the slobs, the depressed, the oppressed, the exploited, the minorities, the canaille, the rabble, the poor, the underprivileged ...

(Continues...)

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