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4.0 out of 5 stars Unreal machines - readable short stories
This is, to my mind, a surreal and imaginative narrative written in 1914; though in the form of novel this is really a set of about 5 short tales with only the author's dream/nightmare like style connecting them. We are very quickly introduced to Cantarel a scientist/engineer who has a large estate of the title. He has used his expertise and inventions to bring a sort of...
Published on 11 Aug. 2011 by H. Tee

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unsatisfactory
The book is an experiment in writing. Using the structure of a guided tour taken through a reclusive scientist's estate, Roussel tells several stories. The biggest problem is that the result is an excessive reliance on detailed, literal description. There is little characterisation. Roussel explained that he had a method for writing which was essentially a mechanical one...
Published on 24 Jun. 2011 by R. Herriott


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4.0 out of 5 stars Unreal machines - readable short stories, 11 Aug. 2011
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This is, to my mind, a surreal and imaginative narrative written in 1914; though in the form of novel this is really a set of about 5 short tales with only the author's dream/nightmare like style connecting them. We are very quickly introduced to Cantarel a scientist/engineer who has a large estate of the title. He has used his expertise and inventions to bring a sort of theme park of ideas to a group, which he is leading round. The individual tales are written in certain pattern: first the guests witness a seemingly inexplicable tablo scene (which usually include machines powered by chemicals, hot air, magnetism etc but also actors), there follows an unreal explanation of how it was achieved; finally the scene is replayed in part perhaps with further explanation due to a connection with a relevant guest. There is a surreal logic in the explanation of how things work in a very science fiction type way and certainly not realisable even in any modern technology sense. E.g. insects power tarot cards and remember the Scottish melody by moving their legs connect to clockwork, a cone in their heads produces a laser like beam which parts flesh without bleeding thus allowing another invention to remove explosives produced in the skin of a certain individual etc etc. The technical descriptions dominate the text but they are interesting and off-the-wall, though perhaps can get a little verbose or tedious in places.

Here are a few of the ideas:
There is a clockwork machine which draws a huge picture related to a 1650 event using the variation in colour of drawn teeth mosaic fashion.

There is a large glass vessel with a floating cat tickling the floating facial skin of a dead poet to reproduce his best works (chemicals in the water and injected into the corpse keep things going).

The best scene is made of 8 mini sub-stories; Cantarel has managed to bring back to life the dead who re-enact Zombie-like their most important moments in life (e.g. a suicide). Actors help the presentation and even manage to, detective-like, solve mysteries.

A bald madman manipulates using hot air jets 6 Gypsy dolls to re-enact their real life murder underfoot of his 1 year old daughter through a violent jig. He thus gains his sanity.

Well I loved the imagination and surrealism (Andre Breton a true `surrealist' French author of the time thought Roussel `the greatest mesmerist" - here I'd agree; accepting I really disliked Breton's famous proper surreal novel "Nadja" because it's true surreal style was not enjoyable - see my review). This is what one might expect of such a potnetial surreal novel and quite similar to "The Invention of Morel" by Casares. I found myself thinking that Locus Solus was a sort of hell with Cantarel, devil-like, forcing people to live forever in a perpetual replay and emotional torment. We don't learn anything about Cantarel and little of his guests by the end and the book appears to end very abruptly (almost as if Roussel got bored or ran out of ideas) - I think I was expecting a punch-line or conclusion and felt let down so only 4-stars. A differennt readable book.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unsatisfactory, 24 Jun. 2011
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R. Herriott "casalingua" (Denmark) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The book is an experiment in writing. Using the structure of a guided tour taken through a reclusive scientist's estate, Roussel tells several stories. The biggest problem is that the result is an excessive reliance on detailed, literal description. There is little characterisation. Roussel explained that he had a method for writing which was essentially a mechanical one. This shows in the rather lifeless and tedious prose used to explain, among others, a tank occupied by racing sea-horses, a glass building that encloses re-enactments of dead people's tragic lives and a machine that makes a huge picture out of old teeth. The book is a formal exercise in the construction of a narrative and its interest starts and stops there. The only positive point I can make is that the glass building described by Roussel seems very, very similar to Mies Van Der Rohe's Farnsworth house or Philip Johnson's house at New Canaan, Connecticut.
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Locus Solus (French surrealism)
Locus Solus (French surrealism) by Raymond Roussel (Paperback - 24 Nov. 1983)
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