The first of Roussel's two major prose works, Impressions of Africa is not, as the title may suggest, a conventional travel account, but an adventure ...Show synopsisThe first of Roussel's two major prose works, Impressions of Africa is not, as the title may suggest, a conventional travel account, but an adventure story put together in a highly individual fashion and with an unusual time sequence, whereby the reader is even made to choose whether to begin with the first or the tenth chapter.Hide synopsis
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Sooner or later, in your literary/intellectual/artistic travels, you're going to come across the name of Raymond Roussel. You're going to hear about Locus Solus, Impressions of Africa, New Impressions of Africa, how he contracted a commercial artist/detective agency sketch artist (Henri Zo) to do illustrations for New Impressions of Africa based on a small handful of words that he gave Zo which were seeming were unrelated to the text, how he had for himself designed the "Automobile Roulotte," a huge touring limousine that was the equivalent of a five room apartment with which he toured Europe/the world and which he tried to sell the idea of to both the then current pope (1920s-early 1930s) and Benito Mussolini. You're going to find out that he is a source of endless fascination from Man Ray and Andre Breton and Marcel Duchamp to Alain Robbe-Grillet, Kenneth Koch, John Ashberry, Harry Matthews and is an ?honorary member? of the OuLiPo, founded some twenty-seven years after Roussel's death. You're going to find out about his fascination with chess, much like Duchamp, how the two tragically never met but Duchamp did in 1912 see a production of one of Roussel's over the top, monetarily draining theatrical productions. You'll soon learn that Michel Foucalt, upon randomly stumbling upon a copy of one of Roussel's work in a Parisian bookstore in the late 1950s, wrote his only piece of literary criticism, ?Death and the Labyrint,? about Roussel. You'll learn, someday, we hope, of an amazing book entited "The Bachelor Machine." You'll try to piece all of this together, to create a timeline of modernist influences, almost entirely French in origin, and how they not only interrelate but how they've lost none of their amazingness and timeless influence. You might even ask yourself, ?Hey, why didn?t I know about this guy earlier??
Buy this book. Ponder it. Try to put it into context. Pick at it. Skim it. Refer often to it. Befriend it. See if you can grok it out, even a little. See where it fits in to many, many things, perchance everything.
Go find a picture of the Automobile Roulotte. Learn about his suicide in Palermo, Sicily on Bastille Day, 1933. Read/learn about how his multi-chambered vault in Pere Lachaise (sp?) is some sort of elaborate chess reference. Read about his extreme dandyism and his wearing of certain garments once and only once before he discarded them.
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