NAMING THE JUNGLE by Antoine Volodine

NAMING THE JUNGLE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Intensely imagined evocation of post-revolutionary Latin America, from an acclaimed French novelist whose work appears here in English translation for the first time. The setting is the city of Puesto Libertad in an unidentified country whose new government assiduously examines the loyalty of those who fought in the recently concluded revolution. One such citizen, Fabian Golpiez, must match wits with Gon‡alves, the choleric psychiatrist who grows increasingly frustrated with his ""patient's"" erratic memory (Fabian can't remember whether he served with government or rebel troops). The two engage in several amusingly combative conversations, in which Fabian is challenged to prove his native (Tupi Indian) identity by providing the correct Indian names for indigenous flora, fauna, and other phenomena. Volodine juxtaposes with these talks memories triggered by Fabian's efforts to ""explain certain episodes of my love life or my revolutionary days""--most notably his sexual relationship with a mysterious woman accused of collaborating with the former government's thuggish military police, and his complicated friendship with a rebel soldier with whom he'd planned to found an ""egalitarian commune,"" climaxing with the pair's hallucinatory journey upriver into the dangerous interior. The novel is alive with color and detail, and its portrayal of the perils of existing in this volatile environment are powerfully evoked by the ubiquitous presence of seemingly endless varieties of snakes and spiders (which Fabian must both name and survive). And Fabian Golpiez, an uncomprehending little man who desires only to blend into anonymity with the jungle that hides him and with the compliant women with whom he blissfully ""surucates,"" is an unusual and appealing protagonist. An unconventional look at the embattled human manifestations of amorphously large events--and a pleasing debut by a writer from whom we'll surely hear more.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1996
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: New Press