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Impressions of Africa

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4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  192 ratings  ·  16 reviews
In a mythical African land, some shipwrecked and uniquely talented passengers stage a grand gala to entertain themselves and their captor, the great chieftain Talou. In performance after bizarre performance—starring, among others, a zither-playing worm, a marksman who can peel an egg at fifty yards, a railway car that rolls on calves’ lungs, and fabulous machines that pain...more
Paperback, 280 pages
Published June 29th 2011 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published 1910)
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Quinn Slobodian
The first half of the book consists of detailed descriptions of spectacles arranged for the benefit of an emperor "in that part of Africa near the equator." The performances are incredible and bizarre--a basin/zither set-up allows a virtuosic worm to play Gypsy concertoes through undulations of its body, a limbless man is a one-armed band, a beautiful woman emerges from a hut with walls made from overlapping pages lit from within with a magpie on her shoulder trained to operate life-size mechani...more
Bill
as this book is classified as french surrealism, i was fully expecting it to be a fairly difficult read, with little or no plot.much to my surprise then, when i started reading it, to find that it very definitely has a complete plot. quite a bizarre one to be sure, but a plot nevertheless.it's actually a very readable novel, and i enjoyed it immensely.thanks again oriana.
Andrew
The basics of Impressions of Africa aren't much different than those of Locus Solus. Likewise, there's a dizzying array of curiosities, although in this case, instead of being presented by an icy scientist on his sprawling estate, it's a kingdom on the coast of Africa, performed by a band of shipwrecked ingenues. I suppose that, this being the second Roussel book I've read, I was less shocked and wowed, but it was still entertainingly weird-- I half-imagined Tim and Eric of Awesome Show fame put...more
Cns
This is a book full of puns and double meanings--if you can read French. For example, A Farting White Horse in French could also mean a windy mountain pass. So the French reader might read this and think, "Ah...he's talking about Switzerland." The English reader just thinks, "A farting white horse...WTF?" The whole book is like that. Enjoy.

Steven Felicelli
with Lautreamont, Pessoa and a few others - Roussel is one of the category of uncategorizable authors
David
This one was remarkably readable for an author so closely connected to the surrealists. Still strange to thing that Roussel was a contemporary of Proust. Such a weird book after all, half the book being this surreal pageant of images and then the other half being an explanation of how the pageant came to be, explaining everything in minute detail. It struck me a lot like some of the X-Files episodes, the beginning actually being somewhat of the ending. In any event, saying this one is interestin...more
Maryann
One thing is for sure- Roussel had QUITE the imagination! The first nine chapters of the book are descriptions of the fantastic inventions and conventions composed for the gala for King Talu. One hundred pages of descriptions. No story. It got tedious. And honestly, I struggled with picturing what he described, because they were so outlandish.

The story doesn't really begin until the tenth chapter, where it is explained why the gala with all it's performances and trappings occurred. After the pr...more
Fx Smeets
Don't pay any mind to my arbitrary rating. Impressions d'Afrique is not the kind of book that can be judged on a 1 to 5 scale. It is old, out of reference with our time, flavoured with the dubious colonialist visions of Africa, written in the most basic journalistic style of the early 20th century, awkwardly constructed.

It is also the works of a mind fascinated by the science and techniques of his times but at the same time of a vivid and unbridled imagination. The result has all the charm of a...more
Deanne
Have to wonder what drugs Roussel was on when he wrote this, or was it a high fever brought on by malaria. A group of shipwreck survivors, some with remarkable talents become the entertainment for an African leader.
Spent quite a while scratching my head, not a big fan of surrealism it seems.
Brent Hayward
I kind of swam in and out of this book. A litany of strange performances and events at the ceremony of an African leader, followed by equally strange explanations, all centered around a shipwreck. Roussel's work is like nothing else. Geometrical and oblique.
Caleb Wilson
Sublimely odd parade of mechanical, botanical, and zoological marvels. Plot? Not really. The narrator's exceedingly minute descriptions are hilarious.
Chris
This book, published in France in 1910, is regularly cited as a proto-surrealist work, influential to everyone from Breton to Foucault to John Ashbery, in line with Lautremont's similarly strange (though far more brutal) "Maldoror." (The Oulipo movement also cited Roussel as a "pre-emptive plagiarist" of Ouplipian structures and concepts.) The premise: a group of seafarers heading from Paris to South America on holiday capsize and land on an African coast town, where they are held for ransom by...more
thegift
further proof that, for me, the best medium for expression of surrealism, the most effective, the most memorable- is visual not verbal. that is, visual arts like painting, etching, drawing, dance, plays, movies, or even plastic arts like sculpture, ceramics- not writing prose or poetry. maybe this loses something in translation, but for me it is one long, long, description of surrealist performance art, which may be striking, involving, interesting, in itself but not at this remove. in this, the...more
Lenny
Aug 23, 2012 Lenny marked it as to-read
A new translation by the author of the masterful biography of Andre Breton, Revolution in the Mind, Mark Polizotti. It will be interesting to see how it compares to the old 1970s translation published by the University of California.
Katie Cruel
This translation is a bore. I should have read Dalkey's translation, or better, just have read it in French...
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