Greg's Reviews > Chapel Road

Chapel Road by Louis Paul Boon
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Apr 08, 08

bookshelves: fiction, dalkey
Read in March, 2008

Once again the world has proven to me that their is still much to be found in it. I'd never heard of Louis Paul Boon before noticing Summer of Termuren when it arrived at the store a few weeks ago. SOT looked like the kind of book I normally get excited about. First half of the 20th century gloom and doom, idealism being destroyed by the waves of history, that kind of thing. I was about to buy the book, when I saw that it was the follow up to this novel, so I had to pick it up first. It's just wrong to read books out of order.
This book is set sometime in the 19th century, it's also set sometime following the second World War. The book alternates between the writing of the story of Termuren in the 19th century at the dawn of Socialism, and in the 'present day' (the book being written in the 1950's) as an author named Boon tries to write the novel about Chapel Road. Since this isn't confusing enough already for me to write, I'll add that also in N1 (N1 being used to designate the story of a writer Boon and his friends, as opposed to N2 which is the story the writer Boon is writing within the novel N), there is a running fable of sorts that's a take off of the poem Reynard the Fox.
In N1, the characters are living in a Socialist state. In N2 the characters are living in pre-socialism, and the ideas of Socialism are equal to godlessness in the eyes of most of the people. In both of these settings there is a poverty of real life present, and the book is in a sense a setting up of why did Socialism fail, or maybe why is it still basically the same society but under a different name.
I'm failing miserably. I can't describe this book easily. It's wonderfully post-modern, and possibly the first post-modern novel with it's self-reflexive storytelling. Reading this novel isn't for everyone, I can imagine people finding it boring, and it's not really until you start to think about the different stories and characters in particular relations that aren't spelled explicitly by the author that new and wonderful dimensions open up.
Maybe once I read SOT I'll be able to write a better description of this novel. The only thing I guess I can really say is that this novel is definitely worth reading, and once again I have Dalkey to thank for putting back into print an amazing piece of literature that probably would have never crossed my path if it hadn't been for them.
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