RSS

Tag Archives: cahier d’un retour au pays natal

{Review} Histoire de la chauve-souris – Pierette Fleutiaux

Read for: Rose City Reader’s  European Reading Challenge and for Words and Peace’s Books on France 2014 Reading Challenge.

Ashes by Edvard Munch. It pretty much sums up the story…


Disclaimer. Even now, in the final year of my degree, I feel a little nervous about reviewing books read in French. What if I’ve missed some cultural reference that every other French reader’s grasped? What if, even after close reading, I haven’t fully appreciated the linguistic subtleties of the text, such as those present in Césaire’s Cahier d’un retour au pays natal? Just because I can understand the words doesn’t mean I’ll ‘get’ all the sub-texts.

I fear I shall always be an English woman reading French novels.

Now that’s out of the way, on to the review! 🙂

Blurb
If they had only cut off her hair, she would have been freed from the bat, but her family forbad it and she was lumbered with her “petit bête”. But the beast is demanding and slowly strips her of her sense of self as she strives to care for it. In an attempt to satisfy it, she runs away from home and sets out on a journey that takes her far from her tiny world to one as nightmarish as Lorca’s New York.

Review
Despite being Fleutiaux’s first novel, her style is already developed and by gum, what a style! Part gothic novel, part psychological thriller, part coming of age tale, part social commentary; NdlCS drew me into the claustrophobic head of its narrator from the opening lines. The book is sub-divided into 3 books, just like the novels of yore and each has a slightly different style, even though each section is equally dark and oppressive. With a hand on my heart, I can swear that the last author I’ve read who’s convincingly managed to maintain such a constantly airless atmosphere throughout their novel was Mervyn Peake in the Gormenghast Trilogy.

Then again, perhaps a comparison to The Yellow Wallpaper would do HdlCS more justice: the narrator’s sanity is repeatedly called into question as she is exploited and potentially abused (I say ‘potentially’ as the first-person narrative coupled with her innocence leads to some ambiguous passages that had me squirming and thinking, ‘Oh G-d, really? Is what I think is happening really going on?’).

It seems silly to have written a review about a book with the word ‘bat’ in the title without (thus far) having mentioning said bat! Fleutiaux mentioned in an interview that she chose to stick a bat in there because she « could never have written a novel about a young girl, a coming-of-age story » without the presence of a ‘character’ that would be versatile enough to be used as short-hand for the duality of human nature. So both the darker tendencies of human nature, such as depression, guilt and self-loathing as well as hope and freedom. Furthermore, the bat’s existence is called into question on several occasions, leading the reader to wonder if it’s real until the end. (Don’t worry, there are no spoilers here!)

That bat really does drive the story forward as it has complete control over the narrator, forcing her to exhaust and ostracise herself to feed and care for it.

Overall
Dark, disorientating and darn well-written! If you can read French, I heartily recommend it. English speakers, there doesn’t seem to be an English translation of it 39 years after it was written, so I doubt there ever will be. 😦 Nonetheless, I live in hope!

Advertisements
 
3 Comments

Posted by on February 6, 2014 in 2014 Reading Challenges, Books

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

{Review} Cahier d’un retour au pays natal – Aimé Césaire

Hommage à Aimé Césaire sur le Skatepark de Royan

Hommage à Aimé Césaire sur le Skatepark de Royan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Feel free to laugh at my ignorance, but I’d never heard of Aimé Césaire before last month and now his name is popping up everywhere! There was even a documentary about him on the television last week. Has anyone else ever had this happen to them? Or am I just being posthumously stalked by his work?

Blurb (from Goodreads )
Aimé Césaire’s masterpiece, Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, is a work of immense cultural significance and beauty. The long poem was the beginning of Césaire’s quest for negritude, and it became an anthem of Blacks around the world. With its emphasis on unusual juxtapositions of object and metaphor, manipulation of language into puns and neologisms, and rhythm, Césaire considered his style a “beneficial madness” that could “break into the forbidden” and reach the powerful and overlooked aspects of black culture.
Clayton Eshleman and Annette Smith achieve a laudable adaptation of Césaire’s work to English by clarifying double meanings, stretching syntax, and finding equivalent English puns, all while remaining remarkably true to the French text. Their treatment of the poetry is marked with imagination, vigour, and accuracy that will clarify difficulties for those already familiar with French, and make the work accessible to those who are not. Andre Breton’s introduction, A Great Black Poet, situates the text and provides a moving tribute to Césaire

Review
This poem is one of the most difficult French texts that I’ve read in the last 3 months. Césaire’s goal was to mould the French language into the form that he wanted. His aim was to make his readers experience a sense of disorientation when they read it and to feel like foreigners in their native tongue. (When he moved to Paris for his studies in the early 1930’s, he experienced racism and wanted to stand up to the people who thought that he was stupid because he had a different skin colour from them). He used obscure language and made new expressions to great effect, totally blowing my mind and wishing that my level of French were high enough to understand every nuance. 

Overall
If you’ve ever been interested in the Harlem Renaissance, enjoyed Poeta en Nueva York or are interested in black culture, get your hands on a translation and read it.

Wild Night In’s Verdict? Wavering towards win.

Read for the Read French Books challenge

 
6 Comments

Posted by on March 29, 2012 in Books, Read French Books!

 

Tags: , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: