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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Ponge's signature21 Oct 2002
- Published on Amazon.com
Soap is different from Ponge's other work. He is best known as the author of many brief, well-crafted prose poems which take the form of minute observations on natural and manmade objects. This book, as the title implies, is also an observation on a common household object. This work is not merely a prose poem, although it contains elements of prose poetry. It is comprised of (fictional?) radio addresses, a short dramatic piece, correspondence, notebook extracts and other narrative forms culled from twenty years of occasional writing on one topic: the nature of soap. The whole work is a metaphor on the relationship between soap and language. There are affinities between language and soap, their artificiality, their cleansing power, their slipperiness, etc. But these metaphorical connections are not explicitly expressed by Ponge - they are everywhere implied. The fragments of writing here are like bubbles, containing the same substance but constantly changing form ever so slightly. The form relates quite well to the content. What Ponge has found here is a subject whose nature corresponds almost exactly to his writing style and his narrative method - perhaps this is what motivated him to linger over this particular piece for twenty years and to elaborate and refine it to an extent unfamiliar in his other works. This work, more than any other, displays the virtues and the virtuosity of Ponge. I give the book four stars mostly because of the presentation. It's a handsome edition and the translation is quite good. But it is a slim volume (about 75 pages of text) and it would have been extremely worthwhile for the publisher to have included the French text on facing pages. Most prospective purchasers of this volume have probably more than a nodding acquaintance with French, since Ponge is known to American readers largely through the influence he has had on other writers and thinkers like Robbe-Grillet or Derrida. Because Ponge relies so much on wordplay and etymological affinities, the French text would have been useful.