Latest Review: "Hoppla! 1 2 3" by Gerard Gavarry
Looks like this is going to be a week of Dalkey Archive reviews, with my piece on Anonymous Celebrity by Ignacio de Loyola Brandao coming out on Thursday or Friday . . . And not to give away too much, but my review is much more positive than what Timothy Nassau (former Open Letter intern who’s actually back in school and still reviewing for us) has to say about Gerard Gavarry’s Hoppla! 1 2 3, which was published earlier this year in Jane Kuntz’s translation.
As frequently occurs, a few days ago I was browsing through a bookstore when something caught my eye. The book was Negative Horizon by Paul Virilio, which “sets out [his] theory of dromoscopy: a means of apprehending speed and its pivotal—and potentially destructive—role in contemporary global society.” Chapter titles include “The Aesthetics of Disappearance,” “The Metapsychosis of the Passenger,” and “From the Site of the Election to the Site of the Ejection.” I did not purchase the book (the one time I’ve read anything Continuum published it took me over an hour to get through the first ten pages, though kudos to them for putting out a translation of Berlin Alexanderplatz), but something about it struck me as simultaneously so French and so absurdly pretentious that Paul Virilio has stayed with me.
Gérard Gavarry’s Hoppla! 1 2 3, a book I actually have read, has similar qualities. The title comes from the Bertolt Brecht line, “And as the first head rolls I’ll say: hoppla!” These morbid connotations, coupled with the three numbers, present a taste of what is to come. The basic story is that a youth from the housing projects of a Parisian suburb rapes and kills his mother’s boss, the manager of a supermarket. The novel aspect of the book is that the story is told three different times in three sections of eleven chapters each.
At first this may sound like a more drawn out and more blood-thirsty version of Raymond Queneau’s Exercises in Style. The back of the book certainly backs this up as it describes how each section is “in a different tone or mode and with different sets of images and vocabularies—borrowed from tropical botany, the shipping industry, and ancient Greece.” But this is actually misleading. The whole book sticks fairly close to the same style throughout, and each retelling is more a chance to flesh out the basic plot than to cast it in an entirely new light.
Click here for the full review.