Boris Vian discussion

Boris Vian's "Autumn in Peking"

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message 1: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:05PM) (new)

Tosh | 47 comments Mod
Boris Vian was a jack of all trades - although unfortunately his name was Boris and "Boris of all trades" never took off as a turn of phrase. But nevertheless Vian was a great songwriter, playwright, singer, jazz critic and, of course novelist so it should have been Boris instead of Jack. Vian's 1947 novel Autumn in Peking (L'Automne à Pékin) is perhaps Vian's most slapstick work, with an added amount of despair in its exotic recipe for a violent cocktail drink.

The story takes place in the imaginary desert called Exopotamie where all the leading characters take part in the building of a train station with tracks that go nowhere. Houses and buildings are destroyed to build this unnecessary structure - and in Vian's world waste not, make not.

In Alistair Rolls' pioneering study of Vian's novels, "The Flight of the Angels," he expresses that Exopotamie is a thinly disguised version of Paris, where after the war the city started changing its previous centuries of architecture to something more modern. Yes, something dull to take the place of what was exciting and mysterious.

Vian, in a mixture of great humor and unequal amount of disgust, introduces various 'eccentric' characters in this 'desert' adventure, such as Anne and Angel who are best friends; and Rochelle who is in love and sleeps with Anne, while Angel is madly in love with her.

Besides the trio there is also Doctor Mangemanche; the archeologist Athanagore Porphyroginite, his aide, Cuivre; and Pipo - all of them in a locality similar to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, where there is a tinge of darkness and anything is possible, except for happiness.

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message 2: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:05PM) (new)

Tosh | 47 comments Mod
This is such a crazy insane book. It sort of reminds me of Looney Toons with a mixture of Bunuel. The opening scene of one of the characters trying to catch a bus is something out of classic Buster Keaton. In fact I think Keaton is a big influence on Vian. They both had the love of weird machines and things going wrong with them. A real love affair with the mechanical world. Vian was an engineer and collected vintage cars.

Autumn maybe one of my favorite Vian's. It is really a remarkable work that is slapstick, but something really serious is right around the corner. Like "Foam" it has so many levels and they are all going at once. I think Thomas Pynchon read this before writing 'Against the Day." I can't prove it, but if he wants to drop in, he's more than welcome!

message 3: by Adam (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:12PM) (new)

Adam | 5 comments Pynchon reading Vian? What a great thought. Pynchon is one of those authors who seem so omnipotent I would be shocked if he hadn't...if not Vian and Pynchon definately drink from the same well..mixing despair and farce...I see the similiarities between the bizarre desert war sequences in Against the day and Autumn In Peking.

message 4: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:14PM) (new)

Tosh | 47 comments Mod
I'm convinced that Pynchon has read Vian. Not long ago I sent him copies of all my TamTam titles - including the Vian books. Still waiting for that phone call from him!

message 5: by brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:14PM) (new)

brian   just here to reiterate what tosh has already said... but me and tosh read Against the Day together and were simultaenously freaked out at all the very obviously vian-influenced sections of the book. we'd call each other up, 'and what about this part?' 'did you see this' 'do you think this...' -- pynchon is obviously the hyper-eductated, hyper-smart, counter-culture maniac who has to have read vian. without a doubt. and it is, in my mind, beyond doubt that vian was somewhere in pynchon's strange strange mind while he was writing various sections of Against the Day...

message 6: by Adam (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:16PM) (new)

Adam | 5 comments Also I don't have link for it but Michael Moorcock's review of Against the Day also mentions Boris Vian...but of course Moorcock is Vian freak and mentions him alot.

message 7: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:17PM) (new)

Tosh | 47 comments Mod
Really? That's fantastic! I don't know Moorcock's work, but he has a large reputation. And he also saw the Vian influence in the Pynchon book as well? Well, that's great. I am going to have to check out the web to find that review.

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