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THE PRINCESS HOPPY by Jacques  Roubaud


or The Tale of Labrador

by Jacques Roubaud

Pub Date: Sept. 3rd, 1993
ISBN: 1-56478-032-5
Publisher: Dalkey Archive

Brevity is the anodyne here for Roubaud's customary low-yielding high jinks (Hortense in Exile, etc.) in this postmodern, word- processor-in-cheek fairy-tale starring Hoppy, a Princess, and her dog, whose name cannot be given for security reasons. Plot summary would be exasperating, misleading, and irrelevant for a tale whose narrative structure most closely resembles that of a toccata and fugue. After a cute, leaden introduction (``Some Indications about What the Tale Says''), the first four chapters lay out a riddle-riddled world peopled by Hoppy and her Dog-speaking dog; her four kingly uncles—Imogäne, AligotÇ, Babylas, and Eleonor (without the E)—who spend their time entertaining and plotting against each other; their queens; and such visitors as the black horseman and the Babylonian astronomer. After an interchapter warning that things are about to get dicier, the tale resets to start, changing and embroidering such details as the names of the kings and queens, the color of the horseman (purple, if you're keeping track), and the cosmology and geometrical configuration of the kingdom. A closing list of 79 questions, a dedication to the Princess, and two exhaustive but mercifully brief indexes conclude the farrago of Monty Python, Barthelme's Snow White, Through the Looking-Glass and ``The Hunting of the Snark,'' the gospel according to John, and the ``Mathematical Games'' section of Scientific American. This savants' brew, full of jocosity though devoid of wit (it sounds like a lot more fun than it is), seems handsomely enough translated. ``The usefulness of certain enigmas will thus only appear to the listener if he already has a fairly good grasp of the Tale or if he has sufficient patience to stay his drowsiness until he has occasion to be convinced of their need (or even to resolve them).'' On this evidence, Joyce and Derrida have a lot to answer for.