Impressions of Africa

Overview

A veritable literary melting pot, Roussel's groundbreaking text makes ample use of wordplay and the surrealist techniques of automatic writing and private allusion 

 

The first and arguably more well known of Roussel's two major prose works, Impressions of Africa is not, as the title may suggest, a conventional travel account. Instead, it's one of the greatest experimental novels of all time?an adventure story put together in a highly individual fashion and with ...

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Overview

A veritable literary melting pot, Roussel's groundbreaking text makes ample use of wordplay and the surrealist techniques of automatic writing and private allusion 

 

The first and arguably more well known of Roussel's two major prose works, Impressions of Africa is not, as the title may suggest, a conventional travel account. Instead, it's one of the greatest experimental novels of all time—an adventure story put together in a highly individual fashion and with an extremely unusual time sequence—within which the reader is even made to choose whether they would like to begin at the first or the tenth chapter. It's also the only edition currently in print of a major French modern classic that was a great influence on the Surrealist movement.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A group of wonderfully talented castaways held captive by an African potentate undertake elaborate stage productions in this ingenious exercise by experimental French author Roussel (1877–1933), first published in 1910 and newly translated. Washed ashore in a fictional equatorial African kingdom run by Emperor Talou VII, the passengers—a historian, an aging Russian ballerina, a French falsetto, a sharpshooter, a pyrotechnics engineer, and the narrator (among others)—are held in captivity, awaiting ransom and release. After witnessing the emperor's parade, showcasing marvelous feats of artifice, endurance, and torture, they begin to enact their own theatrical productions so that each captive might "distinguish himself through either an original work or a fabulous demonstration." The emperor's numerous children also play key roles. Clever devices are built by the engineers, the chemist, and the sculptor; Romeo and Juliet is artfully staged; and prizes are awarded. Tales within tales of Talou's ancestry abound in this demanding nonlinear narrative, as dryly descriptive as it is wondrously absurd. (June)
John Ashbery
“It is true that there is hidden in Roussel something so strong, so ominous and so pregnant with the darkness of the ‘infinite spaces’ . . . that one feels the need for some sort of protective equipment when one reads him.”
Louis Aragon
“[P]resident of the republic of dreams.”
Michel Foucault
“I have kept my love for Roussel as something gratuitous, and I prefer it that way. . . . it’s my secret affair. You know, [Roussel’s work] was my love for several summers . . . no one knew it.”
Ben Marcus - Harper's Magazine
“With Mark Polizzotti, Roussel has finally found his immaculate translator. Polizzotti hews closely to Roussel’s precisely engineered language, rendering a loyal English version without forfeiting the book’s underlying sense of enigma.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781847492708
  • Publisher: Alma Books
  • Publication date: 10/25/2012
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 976,335
  • Product dimensions: 7.60 (w) x 5.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Raymond Roussel (1877-1933) was a French poet, novelist, playwright, musician, chess enthusiast, neurasthenic, and drug addict. Through his novels, poems, and plays he exerted profound influence on certain groups within 20th century French literature, including the Surrealists, Oulipo, and the authors of the nouveau roman. He is the author of Among the Blacks and How I Wrote Certain of My Books.

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