Tuesday, 10 April 2012

End In The Middle

Part of the originality of Raymond Roussel’s novel Impressions of Africa (1910) lies in its structure. The book is divided into two halves. The first half chronicles a series of bizarre spectacles – game-like performances - described in photo-realistic detail yet with no explanation. Only in the second half does the reader learn the stories behind these strange performances. But far from explaining the intentions and origins behind the strange spectacles, the explanations add more layers of fantastical complications that upend the reader further. I suggest that anyone coming fresh to Impressions of Africa should start the book in the middle, and read to the end before attempting the first half of the book. Reading Roussel is a bit like playing ping-pong, alone, on a defective table: the ending crumbles away when balanced against the middle.

1 comment:

  1. About the same time you posted this I was wrestling with the first half of Impressions, again. Opened it up this morning and after a few hundred words remembered that what is boring in his near intolerable description is very interesting - but on your recommendation I may jump to the middle!