The Explosion of the Radiator Hose

Overview

In this nominally true story of an epic, transcontinental road trip, Jean Rolin travels to Africa from darkest France, accompanying a battered Audi to its new life as a taxi to be operated by the family of a Congolese security guard. The ghost of Joseph Conrad haunts Rolin's journey, as do memories of his expatriate youth in Kinshasa in the early 1960s — but no less present are W. G. Sebald and Marcel Proust, who are the guiding lights for Rolin's sensual and digressive attack upon history: his own as well as the...

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Overview

In this nominally true story of an epic, transcontinental road trip, Jean Rolin travels to Africa from darkest France, accompanying a battered Audi to its new life as a taxi to be operated by the family of a Congolese security guard. The ghost of Joseph Conrad haunts Rolin's journey, as do memories of his expatriate youth in Kinshasa in the early 1960s — but no less present are W. G. Sebald and Marcel Proust, who are the guiding lights for Rolin's sensual and digressive attack upon history: his own as well as the world's. By turns comic, lyrical, gruesome, and humane, The Explosion of the Radiator Hose is a one-of-a-kind travelogue, and no less an exploration of what it means to be human in a life of perpetual exile and migration.

Dalkey Archive Press

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Vaguely about importing an Audi from France to deep in the Congo, this twisted tale becomes a canvas for French journalist Rolin's meditations, counter-histories, and digressions into the literature of colonialism, his first work of fiction to be translated into English. The narration begins as Rolin and his two Congolese companions blow a radiator hose on a desolate stretch of highway just short of their goal, Kinshasa. In addition to faulty mechanics, Rolin's adversaries will include petty thieves who menace the car at every step, bureaucrats in need of bribes, and the sheer absurdity of his quest. Told in small, overlapping fragments, this book is strewn with incidental detail, such as the death of Congolese freedom-fighter Lumumba, the social dynamics of cargo ship crews, and the paranoid theory that French authorities attempt to humiliate African immigrants by overheating the Paris subway. Rolin's snaking, clause-ridden sentences exude an ornery precision, mixing prosaic observations with literary allusion, snide humor, political critique, and personal history. This is a fine, understated novelistic essay only slightly weakened by its hodgepodge structure. (Apr.)
Christian Authier - Le Figaro
“Jean Rolin is a companion with whom one can walk as one hears his clear and dispassionate voice, his wry humor . . . ‘One day I’ll have to tell this story, the story of my heroic death and the ensuing revolution,’ he announces on the final page. I look forward to this.”
World Literature Today
“Like Sebald, Rolin is a master of sentence structure, honing his syntax with considerable elegance, allowing his sentences to reach beyond normative bounds in an effort to bring forth meaning more fully. He is not afraid to loiter here and there, taking his time to develop ideas he finds upon his way, as it were. Though the radiator hose explodes, there is no explosion of truth. Instead, through a deftly ironical and dispassionate gaze, Jean Rolin focuses most closely upon small things, the very ones which in the aggregate compose the fabric of existence in the first world, in the third world, or indeed in a fictional world.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781564786326
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press
  • Publication date: 4/5/2011
  • Series: French Literature Series
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Jean Rolin is a French writer and journalist, the winner of the 1988 Albert
Londres Prize for journalism, and the 1996
Prix Médicis for his novel
L’organisation. As a student, he was closely involved—along with his older brother Olivier (the author of Hotel Crystal)—in the May
’68 uprising. He is the author of essays, novels, and short stories.
In 2006, his book L’Homme qui a vu l’ours won the Prix Ptolémée.

Louise Rogers Lalaurie is a writer,
translator, and editor based near
Paris, where she has lived since
1991 with her French husband and two sons.

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