Arriving in Avignon: A Record Paperback – Oct 14 2010
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About the Author
Daniel Robberechts (1937-1992) is best remembered for his two works of autobiographical fiction, each centered on a particular city, and now considered classics of Flemish literature: Arriving in Avignon and Writing Prague. At the time of his death, he was engaged in a nine-volume project investigating the manipulative mechanisms of language.
Paul Vincent is an award-winning translator of Dutch literature whose translation of Hendrik Marsman's Herinnering aan Holland earned the David Reid Poetry Translation Prize.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Written in 1970, the book strikes me as experimental and avant-garde even now. Maybe it is inevitable that W. G. Sebald is mentioned on the book's back matter - both authors blur the lines between novel and travelogue and historical account. But it is unfair to imply that the two are alike in any other way. Sebald's minutia interlocks and expands; Robberecht's is haphazard, cloudy, ambiguous. In fact, Robberechts goes so far as to suggest that his mythical, metaphysical Avignon is unknowable until the moment of his demise, that all is fragmentary until that point.
The product description for ARRIVING IN AVIGNON states that it is regarded as a classic of Flemish Literature. I will say that I found the idea of it fascinating, but the production tedious. While certain episodes held my interest, the author's technique of splicing geographical details and the history of the city with his own experiences made the entire effort too anecdotal to fully involve me. There is also no doubt that my unfamiliarity with the region and the finer points of the culture inhibited my enjoyment as well. The end result was that I had to force myself to pay attention - I kept losing my place as my mind skipped along different tangents that the text hinted at.
While I did not enjoy ARRIVING IN AVIGNON, I was still intrigued by some of its ideas, which makes rating the book difficult. One of the deficiencies of the Amazon ranking system is that by assigning the book two stars, I feel as though I'm implying that the book is intrinsically bad. That is not the case. I would actually like to recommend the book to those readers who enjoy a more experimental approach to writing, as well as those who are more familiar with the south of France than I am. My rating reflects the fact that the book was not a good fit for me.
On a more positive note, this is another quality edition from Dalkey Archive, which is the reason I selected the book in the first place. When I run across titles for sale from this publisher in the various used book outlets I haunt, I'll invariably take a chance on them, regardless of the content. I have yet to find one that is not unusual at the very least, and most are interesting and horizon-broadening.