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Lights by the Ton

John Sturrock: Jean Echenoz, 18 June 1998

Lake 
by Jean Echenoz, translated by Guido Waldman.
Harvill, 122 pp., £8.99, June 1998, 1 86046 449 1
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Un An 
by Jean Echenoz.
Minuit, 111 pp., frs 65, September 1997, 2 7073 1587 7
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... The weightless characters who track about in Jean Echenoz’s novels are granted a sense now and again that that’s where they are, in someone else’s story, fulfilling burlesque routines not of their own devising. They’re not great thinkers, merely see-through functionaries of the plot. There’s a droll exchange marking one of these twinges of self-awareness in an early novel called Cherokee – named for the Forties song, not for the Native Americans as such – between the driver of a Deux-Chevaux and his captive passenger: ‘ “We could take you somewhere ...

Short Cuts

John Sturrock: Editions de minuit, 14 January 2002

... having come into being under a German curfew. Its first book, written by one of the two founders, Jean Bruller, under the pseudonym of Vercors, was Le Silence de la mer, the story of an elderly Frenchman and his niece, who refuse ever to speak to the German officer who is billeted on them: rightly the most celebrated piece of writing to have come out of the ...

Stabbing the Olive

Tom McCarthy: Toussaint, 11 February 2010

Running Away 
by Jean-Philippe Toussaint, translated by Matthew Smith.
Dalkey, 156 pp., $12.95, November 2009, 978 1 56478 567 1
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La Vérité sur Marie 
by Jean-Philippe Toussaint.
Minuit, 204 pp., €14.50, September 2009, 978 2 7073 2088 9
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... a Robbe-Grillet novel, since they ‘reminded me of soil cutting’. Other legatees, such as Jean Echenoz, Christian Oster and Olivier Rolin, have come up with more considered answers, ones that, at the very least, acknowledge an indebtedness – enough for their collective corpus to be occasionally tagged with the label ‘nouveau nouveau ...

Earthworm on Zither

Paul Grimstad: Raymond Roussel, 26 April 2012

Impressions of Africa 
by Raymond Roussel, translated by Mark Polizzotti.
Dalkey, 280 pp., £10.99, June 2011, 978 1 56478 624 1
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New Impressions of Africa 
by Raymond Roussel, translated by Mark Ford.
Princeton, 264 pp., £16.95, April 2011, 978 0 691 14459 7
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... was found dead on the floor of a Palermo hotel room from an overdose of the barbiturate Soneryl. Jean Cocteau, who got to know him a few years earlier in a rehab clinic at Saint-Cloud (and who remembered Roussel asking him wearily: ‘Why aren’t I as famous as Pierre Loti?’), wrote Roussel’s obituary for La Nouvelle Revue Française, saying that in his ...

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