SAINT GLINGLIN by Raymond Queneau


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 Queneau (The Last Days, etc.), who died in 1976, is best known as a precursor of postmodernism, and this inventive fiction, published in French in 1948, has a wonderful time playing with itself: it's as though Garc°a M†rquez and Beckett met in a dark alley and sat down drunk to collaborate. Ostensibly a series of improvisations on the theme of sons killing fathers, the book becomes both a great deal more and a great deal less than that. Queneau's home-grown myth focuses on the denizens of Home Town, specifically exile Pierre, who's absconded to Foreign Town to partake of ``legends and far-off hearsay.'' Soon enough the reader is plunged into a menagerie of eccentricities, including names (Zostril, Nostrademus, etc.), styles (parodies of anthropologists and any number of literary luminaries), and events: it never rains in Home Town, and there are no fish until it rains for a year, and the fish are everywhere, even in the taverns where people try to escape from the rain. After Pierre has his say, brother Paul's interior monologue concerns the countryside ``in all its horror,'' and sister Helene's autistic soliloquy is plaintive: ``I never cried. Did they cry, my companions?'' Queneau assiduously avoids the letter x until the last word of the novel (``excellence,'' if you must know): the author of Exercises in Style is nothing if not versed in word-games. At one point in this marvelous game, the Grand Prize is given for ``the finesse and subtleties of play.'' As Sallis points out in his introduction, both science and literature were ``games offering marvelous opportunities....'' As a result, endless plot and language mutations provide the sophisticated reader with a carnival ride of surprises and pleasures.

Pub Date: July 14th, 1993
ISBN: 1-56478-027-9
Page count: 169pp
Publisher: Dalkey Archive
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1993