Raymond Roussel and the Republic of Dreams

Observer review: Raymond Roussel and the Republic of Dreams by Mark Ford
By 30, feeling he had achieved the required ‘sensations of art’, he embarked on the novel Impressions d’Afrique. This reveals an extraordinary world which he elaborated for the rest of his life, suspended, as Cocteau said, ‘from elegance, fairyland and fear’ and full of inventors, virtuosi and miraculous inventions. A worm, for instance, in a trough full of a strange water as heavy as mercury with a narrow slit in its base, suspended above a zither. Trained by a Hungarian musician, the worm arches its body to regulate the flow of drops on to the zither and thus plays wondrously complex rhapsodies and waltzes with ‘a savagely dramatic range of expression’. Entering his flood of stories is, as Andr� Gide said, like being swept up in a Gulf Stream of the imagination.
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