Sherwood Smith's Reviews > Subtle Bodies: A Fantasia on Voice, History and Rene Crevel

Subtle Bodies by Peter Dubé
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's review
Jun 03, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: fiction

I hope this short, exquisitely written book is going to get some critical attention.

The full title is Subtle Bodies: A Fantasia on Voice, History and Rene Crevel.

Here's the blurb: It is Paris, 1935, and the poet Rene Crevell has turned on the gas stove in his apartment. As death fills the rooms, Crevel dwells on past events that changed his life and ended the peace among the Surrealists.

Not your cheery reading on any level, including political, and how the Paris scene maps over Berlin of the same period, with the shadow of Hitler looming.

Rather than maunder on, let me offer a quotation.

"Imagine a world," I said and stumbled. Visions caught in my throat, dreams in my teeth. I could feel the water rising in my eyes and my tongue thickening. But I found my way and went on, imagine a different world, I repeated. The straight avenues and highways are pushed to the periphery and the heart of the city given over to winding paths, cul-de-sacs, courtyards. White marble and streaked on the frontage of ordinary buildings, pointless corners that open on patches of green. There is no street without a garden, no garden without a monument to sensual pleasure. A world whose proud capitals are made for walking and for resting, rather than for efficiency; for the delights of wasted afternoons, secret rooms, sudden discoveries and for clandestine pleasures you can share or enjoy alone. The highest towers on the continent stretch stretch themselves into the clouds but are intended simply not to make the most of space, but are crowned with steel aerials and generators that tug lightning out of the sky and bounce it from tower to tower in a display that stops the night walker and leaves them sighing.

I keep wanting to go on and on.
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