- Paperback: 434 pages
- Publisher: Sun & Moon Books (22 Feb. 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1557132860
- ISBN-13: 978-1557132864
- Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 3.2 x 19.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,408,902 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Children of Clay (Sun & Moon Classics) Paperback – 22 Feb 1999
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Paperback, 22 Feb 1999
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
'Children of Clay' is many other things too. It is a huge historical novel, set in the France of the late 1920s and early 30s, with the Stock Market Crash, the decline of the aristocracy and the giant industrialists, working class unrest, anti-Semitism, the rise of fascism. The large dramatis personae include the Hachamoth family, the Jewish Baron and his extreme Catholic wife, her foppish younger brother, her beautiful daughters and religious zealot son; Clemence, their disfigured maid; the Gramignis, refugees from Fascist Italy; Robert Bossu, a barowner's son, convinced of his impending greatness in the new France; Chambernac himself, an inept sexual transgressor, who, in a reverse of the Faust story, forces a devil to sign a contract to help him complete his encyclopaedia.
Mirroring his madmen's cosmologies, all these characters ultimately descend from one man, Claye, only glimpsed in one paragraph, committing suicide from a plane. The novel is full of parodic Biblical allusions and restagings (the children of Claye are also the children of clay, i.e. all Mankind), as characters struggle to live in a violent, evil world that God has seemingly abdicated. The novel ranges in space from Italy to the English Channel, by way of the Riviera and Paris, and in time from the French Revolution to the rise of European fascism; or, more precisely, from the creation of the world to, perhaps, its imminent demise.
'Children' is one of those huge, counter-encyclopaedias, like Burton's 'Anatomy of Melancholy', Swift's 'Tale of the Tub', Melville's 'Moby Dick' or Benjamin's 'Arcades', works that gather together masses of alternative knowledge, marginal, ephemeral, 'useless', trivial, rubbish, countering the encyclopaedic ambition to totalise and classify and explain life. by focusing on what seems unimportant, even mad, these works are perversely never complete, spiralling endlessly, creating a counter-knowledge that can make life, the world, the universe, seem vertiginously new and inexhaustible.
There is so much going on in 'Children', it might be overpowering if it wasn't written in crisp, sprightly, ironic, elliptical comic prose. The novel is contemporary with Marcel Carne's poetic realist films that seemed to prevision the Fall of France, and it shares their profound pessimism, but instead of suffocating in dead ends, Queneau offers us a dazzling collage of possibilities, different ways of looking at the world, all bonkers, but as we try to find a way out of the mess produced by prevailing mindsets, than maybe we could do with a little madness.