Sunday, March 01, 2015

So finely ground it appears homogenous

Duras, in Écrire, deplores that too may books are lacking in freedom. She admonishes writers for acting like cops, whereas writing is a breeding ground for delinquents. By being content with conformist little books, scribblers take pleasure in their own neutralization, they make books with no night, pastime books, books for travelling, not books that sink into the mind, not books that speak the dark grief of all life.
Ravenscrag, by Alain Farah, is a perfectly bizarre novel. Duras would approve.

I have a hard time summarizing its plot. And I'm not sure whom I would recommend it to, except as a literary curiosity. Only now that I've finished reading it, I like it more. This novel gave me a hard time, but that's a good thing.

I love that the narrator is reading Emmanuel Carrère's I Am Alive and You Are Dead. That he admires Jean-Patrick Manchette. That he plagiarizes William Burroughs's Blade Runner. I love that Umberto Eco is a character in this novel. I love the references to Edgar Poe and Lady Gaga.

I love that Rilke is quoted. (Why is it that everyone I read these days is quoting Rilke?)

Then there's the Bologna enigma, Aelia Laelia Crispis. That this is a mysterious inscription famously translated by Jung reinforces the oneiric quality of the novel.
[In] the novel I was then writing, I peppered the narrative, without knowing why, with references to the city of Bologna, whose name designates a mortadella so finely ground it appears homogenous, with no visible trace of the assorted bits from which it's made: pork snouts, rooster fee, beef anuses.
It leads one to think that the whole novel is bologna. Very finely ground. Admirably so.

Ravenscrag is weirdly reminiscent of Philip K. Dick's Time Out of Joint and Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time. It's also a direct descendent of La Dolce Vita and Last Year at Marienbad.

Mind-wiping, the CIA, and some oddly anachronistic scenes that conflate 2012 with 1962 and 1912.

Ravenscrag is the name of the mansion that sits just up the mountain, atop of McGill. Today it's known as the Allan Memorial Institute. The novelized version has only half the rooms of the real-life prototype.
With some difficulty, I manage to leave Ravenscrag, with its architecture of thirty-six doors arrayed on either side of a long central corridor, none of which leads out of the building, as if one had to agree to invent a thirty-seventh in order to exit.
I feel on exiting this book that I am bound by a similar contract.

I want to read it again.

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