The Dust of Suns by Raymond Roussel

Where: The Charnel House, 3421 W. Fullerton St., Chicago, IL

French poet, novelist and playwright Raymond Roussel (1877-1933) faced
almost universal incomprehension and derision during his lifetime for
works that neglected traditional character and plot development in
favor of the construction of elaborate descriptions and anecdotes
based on hidden wordplay. While the premieres of his self-financed
plays caused near-riots, admirers included Surrealists Andre Breton
and Robert Desnos. who called The Dust of Suns (1926) “another
incursion into the unknown which you alone are exploring.” Roussel
never enjoyed the posthumous fame of his hero Jules Verne, but he has
exercised a powerful fascination upon later writers including the
French Oulipo group, John Ashbery, Michel Foucault and Michael Palmer.
New editions of his novels and poetry are forthcoming this year from
Princeton and Dalkey Archive.

Like much of Roussel’s writing, The Dust of Suns has a colonial
setting. Against the backdrop of fin-de-siecle French Guiana, a
convoluted treasure hunt unfolds. The Frenchman Blache seeks his
uncle’s inheritance, a cache of gems whose location lies at the end of
a chain of clues that includes a sonnet engraved on a skull and the
recollections of an albino shepherdess. Meanwhile, his daughter
Solange is in love with Jacques—but all Jacques knows of his parentage
is a mysterious tattoo on his shoulder…

This script-in-hand performance of Roussel’s play, directed by John
Beer with design by Caroline Picard, features an array of Chicago
writers and artists. Performers include: Larry Sawyer, Sara Gothard,
Travis Nichols, Monica Fambrough, Jamie Kazay, James Tadd Alcox,
Suzanne Scanlon, Joshua Corey, Jacob Knabb, Jennifer Karmin, Samantha
Irby, Lisa Janssen, Brian Nemtusak, John Keene, Judith Goldman,
Jennifer Steele, Francesco Levato, Nicole Wilson, Jacob Saenz, and
Joel Craig.



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