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Pigeon Post (Eastern European Literature) (Eastern European Literature Series) Paperback – 6 Nov 2008
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"[Tsepeneag] induces the sense that memory, time, and consciousness are both mutable and, ultimately, unknowable." -- Elizabeth Hand
"[Vain Art of the Fugue] is a work of singular invention and joy, a successful experiment in every aspect of the novel, especially delight."
"Reading Romanian writer Dumitru Tsepeneag's Vain Art of the Fugue is like having a dream, and then remembering it in that diaphanous, vague, next-morning way a dream is recollected. This is a good thing."
"With his metaphors and traps, Dumitru Tsepeneag reminds me of a magician who pulls flowers, animals, and strange objects out of his hat. He lays comical stories over a poignant, and often grim, background."
accomplished and delirious comic novel' - James Womack, Times Literary Supplement
About the Author
Dumitru Tsepeneag (born 14 February 1937) was a leading member and theorist of the Romanian 'oneiricist' group in the late 1960s and early 70s, before the communist regime suppressed the literary movement. The regime viewed Tsepeneag as a troublemaker and in 1975 Ceausescu himself personally signed the decree stripping him of his Romanian citizenship, thus forcing him into exile. He settled in Paris, continuing to write literary work in Romanian, and later in French, as well as publishing extensively in the press. Since 1990, he has commuted between Paris and Bucharest.
Top customer reviews
Tsepeneag's ostensible narrator is a blocked writer, 'Ed', who resembles Tsepeneag at this time of his life - resident in Paris but not a native Frenchman. 'Pigeon Post' is Ed's subversive attempt to turn the chaotic process of composition itself into a finished, publishable 'work'.
So far, so postmodern. Although the book is short - 150 pages of text - the author's chosen method makes 'Pigeon Post', although straightforward on a line-by-line level, a slow, sometimes puzzling, occasionally infuriating read. Tsepeneag's take on this now international style owes more to European models than to Anglo-American postmodernism; the most obvious precursors are Robbe-Grillet and Queneau, and perhaps the literary game-players of the Oulipo. There is also something more than a gesture in the direction of Nabokov and his early 'chess novel', 'The Defense'. Having said that, on the evidence of this book alone Tsepeneag is not quite in that class.
Trying to summarise a book in which 'nothing happens', where the importance lies in the process and not the result, and in which the ontological status and authority of the 'characters' is constantly and deliberately undermined is a fool's task. Tsepeneag appears to have set out to write a book that renews itself with each fragmentary gesture, so that at any given moment what the reader believes he knows about the 'story' is subject to erasure and revision, but at a deeper level a structure of sorts gradually reveals itself. The author has things to say about experience and memory, and 'Pigeon Post' is ordered around such themes rather than the almost non-existent linear narrative, or conventional delineation or development of character (there are four male characters all of whose names begin with the letters 'Ed'). The only really false note for me came at the end, which is surprisingly conventional (within the expectations for this type of text, almost a cliché).
Recommended for readers looking for untraditional satisfactions, prepared to do some work - and perhaps to reread. Those already allergic to the self-consciously fictive, ludic text are unlikely to be persuaded by 'Pigeon Post'.
160 pages, not 149 as stated. Includes a short and informative interview with the author.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Slowly, out of the tangle of seemingly unrelated fragments, several cohesive story lines emerge, but they are never fully explored. Nor does Pigeon Post offer much in the way of thematic development (in that same interview, Tsepeneag admits to no more than "the shadow of a theme"). Early in the novel, in a passage where Ed describes his writing project, Tsepeneag signals what kind of reader he's hoping to reach:
"When all's said and done, I'm piecing together a puzzle that doesn't exist. In the insane hope that when I'm through, I'll manage to put forward a more or less consistent story. I'm counting a little on the reader here, on the kind that's capable of hanging in there to the end, or remaining active and alert like a detective in a dentist's waiting room."
Pigeon Post is frustrating and unsatisfying on many levels, mostly those related to our desire to read a good tale in an accessible form. Viewed as an experiment in structure and identity, however, this novel is a deliciously complex subversion of our expectations, right up to the elegant twist at the very end.