Friday, August 22, 2014

Fiction Friday (33)

When it came time to choose a new book from my never-ending shelf of books waiting to be read, I found myself attracted to a particularly slim hardcover with no dust jacket. I pulled it off the shelf and realized I had no idea where or when this title had come into my possession, or necessarily even why. The why part I gathered was simply due to my love of 20th century French writers, whose playfulness with language and skilled use of imagery have always influenced my own work. Having spent most of the summer reading lighter fare, I dove headlong into the only work of Forets currently available in English.

Ostinato by Louis-Rene des Forets
(Bison Book, 2002)

Written in a form similar to free verse, this is a challenging book in that there is no plot, or character, or really even any structure. It's more of a collection of the author's meditations on life, beginning with childhood and continuing into old age. The typical details of an autobiography, the who, where, and when, are absent from the text, choosing instead to focus on the emotion involved in the various events. What emerges is an insightful reflection on the individual's constant struggle to understand the world around him.

The true joy of this book comes in the language and imagery it evokes. The form this language takes requires the reader to move slowly, as often entire sections consist on one or two sentences with seemingly endless clauses. In a way, it's like reading philosophy, in the sense that you must continuously search to discover the core of the questions being posed.

The beginning section, in which the author presents his reflections on childhood, is brilliant. It manages to capture the confusion and wonder that comes with that period of life as the world seems to wash over us, leaving but a few events that remain permanently ingrained in our being. From there, the impressions that war leaves on a young man are also striking. Towards the end of the book, as the author attempts to understand the purpose of a life lived devoted to language, it can become a bit too esoteric, but never dull.

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