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Impressions of Africa (Calderbooks) [Paperback]

Raymond Roussel , L. Foord , R. Heppenstall

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Book Description

Oct 2001 Calderbooks
"Although the sun was low in the sky, the heat was still
overpowering in that part of Africa, near the equator, and the thundery
atmosphere, untempered by the slightest breeze, weighed oppressively on
every one of us." - Chapter 1.

A compelling introduction to Roussel's Africa - a land which existed wholly
within his imagination. In equatorial Africa the Emperor Talu VII is about
to be crowned. Roussel draws us into another world; dreamlike, colourful
and exciting. An extravagant adventure in style and fantasy. A pure,
sublime work born out of the imagination.

Although never a member of the official surrealist movement, Roussel is
undoubtably one of the most important surrealist writers. Moreover, such
modern innovators as Alain Robbe-Grillet and Eugene Ionesco have
acknowledged their debt to him as one of the principle fathers of the
'nouveau roman' and the 'theatre of the absurd'.

'Impressions of Africa' was the first of Roussel's two major prose works.
It makes easy and enjoyable reading, being an adventure story put together
in a highly individual fashion with an unusual time sequence. It makes use
of fortuitous wit and 'jeux de mots'.

The surrealist techniques of automatic writing and private allusion, while
not spoiling the enjoyment of the casual reader, add an extra dimension to
the book for the student of literature.

Product details

  • Paperback: 318 pages
  • Publisher: Calder Publications Ltd; New edition edition (Oct 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0714502898
  • ISBN-13: 978-0714502892
  • Product Dimensions: 26.4 x 23.1 x 1.5 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,975,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


'Roussel generated the extraordinary inventions of such unclassifiable
fictions as "Impressions of Africa" and "Locus Solus". This procédé, of
which even his greatest champions, most vocally the surrealists, were
unaware during his lifetime.'
-- Gilbert Adair, The Evening Standard

About the Author

Raymond Roussel (Paris, January 20, 1877 - Palermo, July 14, 1933) was a French poet, novelist, playwright, musician, chess enthusiast, neurasthenic, and drug addict. Through his novels, poems, and plays he exerted a profound influence on certain groups within 20th century French literature, including the Surrealists, Oulipo, and the authors of the nouveau roman. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful. 10 Jan 2005
By Bryan Manning - Published on Amazon.com
A precurser to Surrealism, this gem of French literature is not to be overlooked despite it's "out of print" status. The imagery in this book is nothing short of amazing and the oddly structured "plot" easily holds your attention throughout the book. In fact, the imagery alone is worth the price you may have to pay tracking this book down.

When I started reading the book my attention was immediatly drawn into the bizzare descriptions of absurd machines and circus-like performances that made little sense at the time. It was hard to stop laughing at some of the off the wall images my mind conjured while reading and when the pangs of laughter finally alleviated I couldn't put the book down. The second half is full of explainations about what you just read and introduces the characters and setting from the first part of the book.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Surrealism or experimental literature. It really doesn't get much better.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book, questionable translation 21 Aug 2009
By R. Lupu - Published on Amazon.com
Unfortunately, this is the only English translation available of Impressions d'Afrique. Alexis Lykiard, one translator of Lautréamont's Maldoror, spends five pages and many footnotes mercilessly rebuking previous translators of that work; you do not, however, need to be a masterful translator, or even know any French at all, to see the problems with this translation of Roussel's Impressions. At first these errors and typos are confusing, then irritating, and eventually you just regret spending money on the book (sometimes though, to be fair, it looks as if it were actually the fault of the proofreader(s).) There are awkward literalisms (on page 65 the English is "A head without a body...standing on a large red disc, fitted with an iron frame to prevent it from toppling over. This way was Philippo." The French is nothing stranger than "tel était Philippo." Then on 202, "Talu...had just precipitated himself into Sirdah's hut" translates the French "se précipiter," which just means to hurry or rush); weird attempts at colloquialisms (an animal's tongue is in French like "une platine humaine"---which in English becomes "like those which gabble in the human gob"); weirder typos (on 88, "...quickly detaching the scales, which dropped into leucoma the current and soon disappeared..."--- or nonce words like "divurgent" and "frabrics"); and things that are just plain bizarre, like on 223, on preparations for a theatrical performance, "the procedure did not obviate all need for suppers" (translating "...n'excluait pas toute figuration.") There are also unfortunate approximations (an African child carried off by a large bird becomes "the little monkey," translating "espiègle," which my dictionary defines as mischievous, prankish, roguish).

Here are two others, just a few of many more:
177, "...because of a legend that peopled its darkness and maleficent spirits" (for "qui peuplait ses ombrages de génies malfaisants")-- "and" should be "with."
206, "...Juillard then put up the idea of founding, about a picked body of us, a curious sort of club" (for "Juillard émit alors la pensée de fonder, au moyen d'un groupement d'élite, une sorte de club étrange.")

About a picked body of us?!?

You don't have to be a pedantic nit-picker to see that something is very wrong here. All you have to be is a first-time reader of Roussel, with no other options to choose from. Hopefully somebody will come out with something better soon.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A sadly out of print classic of experimental literature. 29 Aug 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Shipwrecked European travelers are held for ransom in an imaginary African kingdom. While they wait for the payment they set up a series of entertainments to keep their spirits up. These performances are the main focus of Roussel's book, an often neglected classic of experimental literature. The first half comprises objective descriptions of bizarre individual talents and strange "technological" demonstrations. The second half explains to the reader what he has just read: the background of the participants and the origins of their skills.
Trying to describe Roussel's enigmatic novel in 1000 words is impossible. While the book is currently not available, readers can check out an extract in Roussel's "How I Wrote Certain of My Books," an excellent volume itself, which contains sections form some of Roussel's other works and John Ashbery's translation of Roussel's essay explaining his fascinating methods of composition.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars - for the translation. 26 Jun 2011
By rater25 - Published on Amazon.com
(Five stars for Roussel) I was wary of this translation, having suffered through Heppenstall`s wretched and disrespectful "translation" of Balzac's SPLENDORS & MISERIES OF COURTESANS (which he called A HARLOT HIGH AND LOW!). It was so inaccurate, with so many phrases added and removed, that it was an actual impediment to understanding the original French.

Until now, this was the only translation of Roussel's IMPRESSIONS OF AFRICA. But, glory be, Dalkey Archive has just published a new translation by Mark Polizzotti - Impressions of Africa (French Literature Series). Comparing the first three pages to the French, I was amazed at how close he comes in meaning, yet keeping it a (relatively) fluent read. Highly recommended over this disgraceful trash.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you think you know strange, think again... 21 Nov 2013
By Stuart Dummit - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Fascinating yet sometimes difficult to read. True genius that doesn't seem to be widely acknowledged. Not what one would expect from the title, but, along with his other work, an enormously satisfying piece of literature.
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