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Old 02-03-2008, 08:21 PM   #1
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another request for help (a forgotten book)...

i just saw Mr. Goodbar's post asking for help with a book he was trying to find and i thought i would try my luck as well.

a long time ago i got a book at the library which was really brilliant, and i would love to read it again but i have since forgotten the title and the author (i should make a list of everything i read...). i tried looking for it at the library again (at the time i think i would have recognized it if i had seen it) but it wasn't there. maybe checked out, maybe weeded out of the collection...

the theme was solipsism ; the main characters were a family, if i recall correctly, and during the course of the story their home (the scene of the action) began to physically crack and fall apart as the dreamer (the father ?) either realized that they were all products of his own mind or woke up (or possibly neither, and it was the odd events which made the other family members suspect...), and the other family members berated him for causing such havoc. the details are very vague in my memory. i mainly remember really liking it.

i *think* it was an italian author, but it was not Pirandello (i'm 99% sure). I'm pretty sure it was a novel, but it may have been a play, definitely in the absurdist theater style. it was not by ionesco either (but it could have been ; it would make a brilliant companion piece to "Rhinoceros"). it might have been written around the 1950's or 1960's (this is a guess).

in french, i think the title might have been something like "la fêlure" (but not exactly that, or i would have found it already... maybe a synonym), so it might be called something like "the fracture" or "the split" in english.

if anyone has any ideas i would really love to find this book again... i've asked around but it seems to be a bit obscure, no-one i've talked to has any ideas. maybe i dreamed the whole thing...

i'm hoping i'll get lucky and it will be the most favorite book ever of someone who comes on this forum every day... if i ever find it again i'll make another post recommending it, and you can all read it too.
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Old 02-03-2008, 11:25 PM   #2
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Alas, the only story I know that has a house cracking up is "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allen Poe. Clearly not the right story.
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Old 02-04-2008, 07:06 AM   #3
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no, it's not the fall of the house of usher. i think it was more recent than Poe. but thanks for trying to help !
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Old 02-04-2008, 03:00 PM   #4
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no, it's not the fall of the house of usher. i think it was more recent than Poe. but thanks for trying to help !
That sounds almost like something by Italo Calvino, but none of his published work I have references for fit the description. (I am extravagantly fond of Calvino's "Cosmicomics" and "Invisible Cities".)

Hmmmm....
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Old 02-04-2008, 03:15 PM   #5
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it's more absurd than calvino (not that he's not absurd... but his absurdity strikes me as sometimes more kafkaesque than ionesco-esque), if i remember correctly, and also i'm pretty sure it was older. but it's a reasonable suggestion. maybe if we can just narrow it down enough, by process of elimination we'll find it...

i love calvino too ; the first of his books i ever read was "if on a winter's night a traveler" and i fell instantly in love.

hmm... perhaps this thread will alternately become a list of books that are NOT the one i can't remember, but are worth reading anyway...
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Old 02-04-2008, 03:58 PM   #6
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it's more absurd than calvino (not that he's not absurd... but his absurdity strikes me as sometimes more kafkaesque than ionesco-esque),
I think of Calvino as a fabulist rather than an absurdist, creating modern fables to serve as distorting mirrors of reality. that might be considered absurdist, too, I suppose.

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if i remember correctly, and also i'm pretty sure it was older. but it's a reasonable suggestion. maybe if we can just narrow it down enough, by process of elimination we'll find it...
IT rings a vague bell, but so far not loudly enough to identify it.

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i love calvino too ; the first of his books i ever read was "if on a winter's night a traveler" and i fell instantly in love.

hmm... perhaps this thread will alternately become a list of books that are NOT the one i can't remember, but are worth reading anyway...


That's fine by me.
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Old 02-04-2008, 04:38 PM   #7
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I think of Calvino as a fabulist rather than an absurdist, creating modern fables to serve as distorting mirrors of reality. that might be considered absurdist, too, I suppose.
heh... actually i don't really think he's absurdist (although i do think his tone is often quite kafkaesque), i just didn't want to absolutely deny that he was in case nobody agreed with me... but fabulist works. what would you call kafka's works ? dystopian fabulist ? (it's a sincere question ; i have a hard time categorizing things sometimes. if i had to name a genre for kafka on pain of death i would say he was the archetypal kafkaïst ).

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IT rings a vague bell, but so far not loudly enough to identify it.
a vague bell is better than no bell... which is what i have so far. actually a vague bell is really encouraging, at this point.
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Old 02-04-2008, 05:29 PM   #8
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heh... actually i don't really think he's absurdist (although i do think his tone is often quite kafkaesque), i just didn't want to absolutely deny that he was in case nobody agreed with me... but fabulist works. what would you call kafka's works ? dystopian fabulist ? (it's a sincere question ; i have a hard time categorizing things sometimes. if i had to name a genre for kafka on pain of death i would say he was the archetypal kafkaïst ).
I'd call Kafka more of an absurdist.

Kafka's worldview strikes me as basically dystopian. His stories take place in worlds that don't make sense, and the characters have no guidelines. I'd certainly call him absurdist.

Calvino's worldview seems more inherently cheerful to me. I think he's exploring the difference between symbol and reality, and the fact that "the map is not the territory". I think of _Invisible Cities_, where Marco Polo spins tales to Kubla Khan about places that he's visited, and speaks of cities that have been, cities that are, cities that might be, and via different perspectives explores the idea of the city.

Calvino is telling modern day fables, but fables have their roots in archetype and symbol, and give us means to help us better understand our reality. I'm not sure Kafka believed that we could understand our reality, that what we thought we knew was probably wrong, and that we might not like it if we did understand reality.

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a vague bell is better than no bell... which is what i have so far. actually a vague bell is really encouraging, at this point.
But maddening, like an itch I can't scratch. Argh!
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Old 02-04-2008, 06:13 PM   #9
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But maddening, like an itch I can't scratch. Argh!
heh. welcome to my world...

interesting analysis of kafka vs. calvino. overall i agree with it. i tend to make a distinction between kafka and the absurdists but i don't know that it's justified. objectively his vision of the world corresponds to the absurdist vision in many ways. perhaps i make an unconscious distinction between western europe (ionesco, pirandello...) and eastern europe (kafka, gogol...) who have their own special variety of absurdism (which is generally more sinister). also i tend to think of the absurdiste movement being more around 1950's and 60's and kafka pre-dates that. maybe he is just a pre-cursor, sowing the seeds...

kafka is indeed rather bleak ; the frightening part is this bleakness seems rather true to reality sometimes, *his* reality at the least. calvino's is definitely more of a happy-go-lucky absurde ; inexplicable things happen, people do incomprehensible or irrational things, but hey ! that's just life, no use getting wound up about it... and the people in his books seem to have their reasons for acting so strangely. like "the baron in the tree" ; what a crazy idea, to spend your life in the tree ! but he knows why he's there... whereas in kafka, as you say, they are condemned to struggle hopelessly against the incomprehensible (and generally malevolent) actions and conditions surrounding them.

i'm starting to think i've never read invisible cities (how did that happen ?). i will have to add it to my list...
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Old 02-04-2008, 07:06 PM   #10
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interesting analysis of kafka vs. calvino. overall i agree with it. i tend to make a distinction between kafka and the absurdists but i don't know that it's justified. objectively his vision of the world corresponds to the absurdist vision in many ways. perhaps i make an unconscious distinction between western europe (ionesco, pirandello...) and eastern europe (kafka, gogol...) who have their own special variety of absurdism (which is generally more sinister). also i tend to think of the absurdiste movement being more around 1950's and 60's and kafka pre-dates that. maybe he is just a pre-cursor, sowing the seeds...

kafka is indeed rather bleak ; the frightening part is this bleakness seems rather true to reality sometimes, *his* reality at the least. calvino's is definitely more of a happy-go-lucky absurde ; inexplicable things happen, people do incomprehensible or irrational things, but hey ! that's just life, no use getting wound up about it... and the people in his books seem to have their reasons for acting so strangely. like "the baron in the tree" ; what a crazy idea, to spend your life in the tree ! but he knows why he's there... whereas in kafka, as you say, they are condemned to struggle hopelessly against the incomprehensible (and generally malevolent) actions and conditions surrounding them.
I think you put your finger on a difference when you spoke of the eastern European absurdists having a more "sinister" variety of absurdism.

The difference is likely rooted in location and political environment. Kafka was a middle class Jew in what was then Austria-Hungary. The impersonal, bureaucratic world he depicts is a dark reflection of the sort of environment he lived in, which found its bleakest expression in the purges in Stalinist Russia. Medvedev, in _Let History Judge_, makes a good case that Stalin was responsible for the deaths of more Russians than anything else in Russian history. There was no rhyme nor reason to the purges: once the bureaucratic machine was started and set in motion, it continued relentlessly, chewing up anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in its path, regardless of what they might have done or not done. That was Kafka's bleak vision personified.

Calvino was Italian, from a culture where politics often take on a madcap comic opera guise. It's not evil, just highly personal, fueled by loyalty to family, clan, and region. "Italy" is a thin veneer over a mass of squabbling city states, and I suspect many Italians will indentify themselves as a Roman, Florentine, Venetian or what have you first, and an Italian second.

No surprise Calvino's tales are more light-hearted. His characters know what the rules are, though they may struggle to bend or transform them. Kafka's characters don't, and exist in mute bewilderment.

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i'm starting to think i've never read invisible cities (how did that happen ?). i will have to add it to my list...
You have a treat in store.
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Old 02-13-2008, 04:41 AM   #11
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I know of a story of a house breaking up. I doubt is the one you are looking for but is sure is good. It is a short story by Robert Heinlein called "And they built a crooked house" If you are a sci fi fan, it is one in a million.
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Old 02-13-2008, 06:12 AM   #12
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the alternate function of this thread (to make a list of books that are NOT the one i can't remember, but are worth reading anyway...) is doing really well !

thanks for the suggestion, although i confirm that's definitely not the one i had in mind.
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