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THE GREAT FIRE OF LONDON by Jacques  Roubaud


A Story with Interpolations and Bifurcations

by Jacques Roubaud

Pub Date: July 29th, 1991
ISBN: 0-916583-76-7
Publisher: Dalkey Archive

Quasi-autobiographical antinovel with an infinity of self- reflexive notes for a never-written novel that doesn't get written here either; by a French professor of mathematics. Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, Julio Cortazar's Hopscotch (rearrange the chapters in any order) and Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler (a repetition of false starts upon false starts) are masterpieces of straightforward storytelling set beside this heavy goo of lapidary intellectualismo. For 20 years, the anguished narrator has wanted to write the nonnovel we are now reading—it was once called Project, as Finnegans Wake was once called Work in Progress. He begins by writing the first sentence and then about how the first sentence looks on the page, the fall of light from his desk lamp on the sentence, the breaking darkness outdoors slowly wiping out the yellow lampglow on his desk, and so on, all with the intention of giving us a story that, as it goes along, self-destructs sentence by sentence. Can this be authorial suicide? Whatever artistic impulse gave birth to this aberration has been overtaken by the death of the narrator's young wife Alix and a depression that all but obliterates his first great pain and leaves this fearful mountain of artifice. Roubaud cannot follow a straight line but must forever split any thought into a forking thought that demands an interpolation (and leaves the reader forked). ``Whatever else it may be, the system I've planned is sufficiently unobtrusive and practical not to preclude a priori that my book would be read by no more than a few dozen or so crazy Oulipians.'' Oulipians apparently are fellow nonlinearists. Epistemocritical digressions that probably even the dead would not read with enjoyment. Maximum narcolepsy.