BABYLON by Rene Crevel


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Crevel, who might be termed an auxiliary Surrealist and who committed suicide at age 35 in 1935, is lushly translated here by Kay Boyle (below), buttressed by Max Ernst ""photogram"" illustrations, and compared in the Afterword to Rimbaud and Lautremont. The very slender frame of the ""novel,"" written in 1927, concerns the family of a young girl whose father has run off with a female cousin (the girl forever after will think of her father and cousin as ""Mr. Knife, Miss Fork""), whose abandoned mother then is all set to marry a dashing magistrate, only to have her mother (the girl's 60-ish grandmother, married to an eminent psychiatrist) steal him right out from underneath her. Fugitive and spirit-loosening alliances of the senses is the book's theme--and while certainly there is an unbuttonedness of language, of imagery cascade, here, comparing Crevel on the basis of this book to Rimbaud and Lautremont seems ludicrous, If Crevel's French is well-served by Boyle's translation, his prose runs from the laughably bad (""In the cement pools, goldfish revolved in such formation that one no longer recalled that others, humbly gray, live in waters unimprisoned by pain-daubed grottoes, waters that flow care-free through meadows where peaceful oxen graze"") to the quite lovely (""An auto turning redder and redder is a dizzy stain of madness on the ribbons and nets of tar that keep the countryside from flying away""). On the whole: of historical interest--but awfully hyperventilated stuff.

Pub Date: June 15th, 1985
Publisher: North Point