Great Fire of London: A Story with Interpolations and Bifurcations

Great Fire of London: A Story with Interpolations and Bifurcations

by Jacques Roubaud, Dominic Di Bernardi
     
 

Part novel, part autobiography, The Great Fire of London is one of the great literary undertakings of our time. Both exasperating and moving, cherished by its readers, it has its origins in the author's attempt to come to terms with the death of his young wife Alix, whose presence both haunts and gives meaning to every page. Having failed to write his

Overview

Part novel, part autobiography, The Great Fire of London is one of the great literary undertakings of our time. Both exasperating and moving, cherished by its readers, it has its origins in the author's attempt to come to terms with the death of his young wife Alix, whose presence both haunts and gives meaning to every page. Having failed to write his intended novel (The Great Fire of London), instead Roubaud creates a book that is about that failure, but in the process opens up the world of the creative process. This novel stands as a lyrical counterpart of the great postmodern masterpieces by fellow Oulipians Georges Perec and Italo Calvino. First published by Dalkey Archive Press in 1991, now available again.

Editorial Reviews

The Independent - Gabriel Josipovici

Jacques Roubaud has finally produced the book that his great and varied talent had always promised... a beautifully controlled examination of the effect on him of his wife's death and of the failure of his literary ambitions.

The Independent

A supremely human work, born of the spirited integrity of a rare mind out of the multiform experiences of a body capable of intense torment and delight.

From the Publisher

"Jacques Roubaud has finally produced the book that his great and varied talent had always promised... a beautifully controlled examination of the effect on him of his wife's death and of the failure of his literary ambitions." -- Gabriel Josipovici, Independent

Dalkey Archive Press

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This challenging book is not a novel but the ruins of a novel: a few sentences of the preface and the struts of a theoretical framework are all that remain of 20 years' work. After dreaming the title in 1961, Roubaud worked out a system of constraints-- based on mathematics and troubador poetics-- which were to form the substructure of his novel. The system was worthy of a mathematics professor and member of Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle (Oulipo), the literary workshop where Georges Perec cultivated his lipograms and Raymond Queneau his combinatory literature. But when Roubaud's young wife, Alix, died in 1983, the novel ceased to be an intellectual quest and became rather a way of nullifying time. Remnants of the original recondite artifice remain embedded in Roubaud's new conceit, his ``unedited-prose constraint,'' i.e., writing by placing one line after another without attempting to ``erase, replace, correct on the spot . . . this initial language deposit.'' Through this relentless prose and various asides--the ``interpolations and bifurcations''--Roubaud describes university haunts, old lovers, Pooh, making azarole jam, the British Library, himself, his work and the often unspoken but pervasive presence of the dead Alix, whose spirit tempers this demanding book. (July.)
Library Journal
Only those willing to set aside all preconceptions of what a novel is should take on this book. Roubaud's goal is to obliterate the novel as a form and replace it with a multilayered, multistyled collection of ``moments,'' complete with additional musings appended in ``interpolations and bifurcations.'' The resulting complexity is needless, often frustrating, and only justifiable stylistically, for there is no story or linear narrative in this work. In destroying this aspect, the author clearly achieves his goal. What is left, then, is a book relating the death of a story and focusing on the writer's inability to produce the story. While other writers may find this interesting, general readers certainly will not. Perhaps never before has ``nothing'' been rendered so problematically. Roubaud, himself a mathematician, should know how to express it with one sign.-- Paul E. Hutchison, Pequea, Pa.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781564783967
Publisher:
Dalkey Archive Press
Publication date:
12/16/2014
Series:
French Literature Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
328
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Jacques Roubaud, born in 1932, has been a professor of mathematics at the University of Paris X Nanterre. He is one of the most accomplished members of the Oulipo, the workshop for experimental literature founded by Raymond Queneau and Francois Le Lionnais. He is the author of numerous books of prose, theatre and poetry.

In addition to several of Jacques Roubaud's books, Dominic Di Bernardi has translated works by Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Muriel Cerf, Claude Ollier, and Patrick Grainville, among others.

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