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Latest Review: "Europes" by Jacques Reda

The latest addition to our Review Section is a piece by Daniela Hurezanu on Jacques Reda’s Europes, which was translated from the French by Aaron Prevots and published by Host Publications.

Daniela Hurezanu—a translator and author who wrote a great review for us of Memory Glyphs—makes this book sound incredibly interesting. There’s a bigger sample below, but I love this line from her review: “Reda’s style is an homage to the long sentence made of complex clauses with subordinates that intricately follow each other—a perfect mastery of grammar as logic-machine.”

Anyway, the one gripe I have is about Host Publication’s website (surprise!). I really like what Host has done over the past few years, and they have quietly become one of the most consistently interesting presses publishing today. Especially in terms of poetry in translation. But for whatever reason, it looks like their website hasn’t been updated in months. At least. In fact, unless I suddenly became incapable of reading and/or using the Internets, Europes isn’t even listed on Host’s site. Not that I can actually “search” the site, seeing as that there is no seach function . . . (Sorry, everyone at Host. This kind of thing is a pet peeve of mine. And trust me, you are light years ahead of clusterfuck sites like Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s, which I’ve decided is either a joke or some devious experiment.)

Back to the subject at hand—Reda’s Europes and Daniela’s review:

After having published Return to Calm, Host Publications now offers us another book by Jacques Réda, also bilingual and also in Aaron Prevots’s translation—Europes. If in an “official” way Europes could be called a “travel essay,” the book’s fluid character undermines this characterization. Recording the fleeting instants of the narrator’s peregrinations, Europes includes essays on Portugal, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Scandinavia and France—one or two essays followed by one or more poems for each country. The poems are “poèmes de circonstance,” that is, topical poems, in this case, poems on the countries described in the preceding essays, written in the tradition of Raymond Queneau: playful, silly, ironically rhymed.

Réda is what the French call a flâneur, a roamer who enjoys his anonymous status in a city’s labyrinth. When a flâneur crosses a border into a new territory he becomes a tourist. The difference between a flâneur and a tourist is that a tourist usually has a destination and certain goals—“Today is Paris Disneyland, tomorrow Auschwitz.” Réda is that rare species of tourist-flâneur; more a traveler than a tourist, he doesn’t entirely belong to the first category either, since as early as the eighteenth century it was common for travelers to have a project: that of letting themselves be formed by the experience of travel. Réda wants to be neither formed nor informed by his travels, he simply has “la bougeotte,” as the French would say, i.e., he can’t stay put.

Although Réda’s style is very literary, he is no snob, and he probably wouldn’t mind being called a tourist. With complete lack of snobbery, he declares that he loves supermarkets “for themselves,” a love only natural for someone who has grown up in poverty (after all, to despise richness is a luxury only the rich can afford). But this confession is immediately followed by an unexpected critical reflection: supermarkets are “counter-museums” or “museums of the instant,” Réda says, “whose instants are accessible, consumable, nearly straightaway consumed but indefinitely renewable . . .”

Click here for the full review.



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