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New Impressions of Africa [Paperback]

Raymond Roussel , Ian Monk
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Feb 2005

Poet, novelist, playwright, and chess enthusiast, Raymond Roussel (1877-1933) was one of the French belle époque's most compelling literary figures. During his lifetime, Roussel's work was vociferously championed by the surrealists, but never achieved the widespread acclaim for which he yearned. New Impressions of Africa is undoubtedly Roussel's most extraordinary work. Since its publication in 1932, this weird and wonderful poem has slowly gained cult status, and its admirers have included Salvador Dalì--who dubbed it the most "ungraspably poetic" work of the era--André Breton, Jean Cocteau, Marcel Duchamp, Michel Foucault, Kenneth Koch, and John Ashbery.

Roussel began writing New Impressions of Africa in 1915 while serving in the French Army during the First World War and it took him seventeen years to complete. "It is hard to believe the immense amount of time composition of this kind of verse requires," he later commented. Mysterious, unnerving, hilarious, haunting, both rigorously logical and dizzyingly sublime, it is truly one of the hidden masterpieces of twentieth-century modernism.

This bilingual edition of New Impressions of Africa presents the original French text and the English poet Mark Ford's lucid, idiomatic translation on facing pages. It also includes an introduction outlining the poem's peculiar structure and evolution, notes explaining its literary and historical references, and the fifty-nine illustrations anonymously commissioned by Roussel, via a detective agency, from Henri-A. Zo.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Atlas Press; New edition edition (1 Feb 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1900565099
  • ISBN-13: 978-1900565097
  • Product Dimensions: 18.8 x 17 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,217,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Runner-Up for the 2012 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, PEN American Center

"Ford . . . deserves a medal and a Légion d'honneur. . . . Ford, himself a poet, combines his translation, introduction and notes with the original French and all the original illustrations; he and his publisher have given English-speaking readers privileged access to New Impressions of Africa, the book which Salvador Dalí once described as 'ungraspably poetic'"--Peter Read, Times Literary Supplement

"Mark Ford's facing-pages edition is easily the most comprehensive and reader-friendly to date. The author of the definitive biography of Roussel in English, Ford brings lucidity to his translation of what is by far Roussel's most ambitious work and probably his masterpiece."--Paul Grimstad, London Review of Books

"In his excellent introduction, Ford quotes Leiris's description of New Impressions of Africa as, among other things, a massive brain teaser, and many of its riddles are as humorous as they are tricky. . . . Intelligent, irascibly intelligible, and definitive."--Eric Banks, BookForum

"In this poem, every road diverges into a woods. It's a chance to take them all."--Tyler Meier, Kenyon Review Newsletter

"Ford has not just translated but has also deciphered the New Impressions of Africa. In his own words, the poem is nothing less than a 'brain-teaser'. His translation is, as he concedes, less concise than the original, but not by much, and perhaps inevitably so. Roussel is so precise and sharp that his words seem almost psychically ergonomic. What Ford does brightly is recreate Roussel's cleverness and wit. In short, Ford has successfully translated what is nothing less than a sort of charming anomaly of modern literature. Rather than distracting from his work, the explanatory notes encourage the reader to appreciate Roussel. This generous clothbound, bilingual edition, which includes the original illustrations that Roussel commissioned, would even have pleased the author himself."--William Heyward, Australian Book Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

"That anyone could translate Nouvelles Impressions d'Afrique at all is unlikely, but that it could be done with such sparkle and brio seems downright mysterious. This version rescues Roussel's bizarre masterpiece from its status as an intriguing rumor and turns it into a valuable resource for contemporary English-speaking readers. Poets especially will be in Mark Ford's debt."--John Ashbery

"Raymond Roussel's New Impressions of Africa is one of the strangest, densest, maddest, most hauntingly beautiful poems of the twentieth century. In a signal act of scholarship and linguistic finesse, the poet and critic Mark Ford--who also happens to be one of the world's prime Roussel scholars--has carried this extraordinary work across the border from French into English with exemplary skill and care. I should warn you that the book you are holding in your hands is mind-bending."--Nicholas Jenkins, Stanford University

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There must be few books as good as this one 20 May 2011
What a magnificent book. Definitely one of the most astonishing accomplishments in literature I have ever seen. This could be the one book I would take for a desert island, and it will be with us for centuries, just like Homer's Odyssey or Dante's Divine Comedy. It's not the result of chance that this book was considered by Duchamp, Dali and others a masterpiece of modern literature.
This edition is beautifully accomplished, according to the first edition. Atlas Press is known for the care they devote to their books, and this one is a good example of that.
Undoubtedly money well spent.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique 4 July 2012
This is an unique and brilliant book. It isn't for everyone, and that's the frustrating part. Writing built from the 'sound' of words and phrases up, isn't of interest to everyone; but if they read these books without knowing about 'how' he wrote them (his procedure/process), they would still enchant - though in a very bizarre way...

But i ask the question of Amazon: why is this cover image showing Ian Monk as translator? When you click on the image you get the 'real' book, trans. by Mark Ford. Is this some Rousselian subterfuge? Mark Ford was the first to translate, i thought.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eccentric genius 15 Mar 2011
By Poly Gog - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Yes, he was an eccentric genius. And we just love him. Pardon me if i send a flippant (and okay, weak) review for the uninitiated:

Can we, by chance (and here one wonders in chancy prose ((never poetry, as the unlucky literary aspirant attempts to deflect (((although in deflecting , the glint reflects))) meaning from form)) whether the poet is oft misunderstood), ever find ourselves in flight from art?

he had time, space and money to create his works - each publication different in style and form. So have many people, but they didn't produce works like this, in obsessive intensity.

Mark Ford has done a fine fine job here. This complex work has been lucidly transliterated, and finely organised, considering the structure of the work is as important(?) as the writing.
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