Conducting bodies by Claude Simon
Original title – Les Corps conducteurs
Translator – Helen R Lane
Source – Library book
I have reviewed a number of French writers of the last few years that have all been identified as Noveau Roman writers such as Sarraute or Duras both of which I have reviewed on the blog. Where each book the writer tackled was a new style of story and book to them as a writer. Although he was included by many in this group Claude Simon himself didn’t count himself in the group of writers. Simon won the Nobel Literature prize in 1985.So when I found this book on my library system late last year I was pleased to try him.
In the display a dozen identical female legs are lined up in a row, feet up, thighs lopped off at the hip joint resting on the floor, the knees slightly bent, as though the legs had been removed from some chorus of dancers at the precise moment that they are all kicking in unison, and put there in the window just as the were, or perhaps snipped out, in monotonous multiplicity, from some advertisement showing a pretty girl in her slip pulling on a stocking, or sitting on a pouf, or on the edge of an unmade bed
The opening lines of the book show you are in for a ride as a reader.
Well Conducting bodies belongs in the field of hard modernist novels, for there is no real plot to speak of other than we are told a writer is on his way to a writers conference that well could be a big city in america but equally given the time the book was written (early 1970’s ) when France was in love with all things US at that time it could france. Anyway or writers body isn’t working he visitis a doctor. Now this is the part you get the other parts is an interconnected collection of prose about bodies the human body, prints on the wall of the doctors , the models in the shop windows which is where the book opens from there on it is a rollercoaster ride of images and ideas
The airplane appears to be suspended motionless above the immense, unchanging layer of clouds, since each time that one glances at the fleecy humps stretching as far as the eye can see, the only thing visible are minute, nearly imperceptible changes.The only evidence that hour after hour is passing is the fatigue that is thickening little by little on his face, like a crust, accompanied by a slight burning sensation, as though he were suffering from a mild fever. It forms a sort of invisible mask of mud tat sticks to his skin,
The plane trip that may have happened or maybe not one can never tell in this book.
In a way the prose style setting and style of this book were similar in a way to the Robbe-grillet novel I review ed last year strangely another novel that was detached from place and time in the way it was told. This maybe is Simon Homage to the style of writing that America produced in the middle of the 20th century some of Faulkner the way we have no fixed point in the narrative is similar in style to As I lay dying were we are given no guide to who is narrating the story. But there is also a feel of something like William Burroughs a cut up feel to the nature of the book. This isn’t any easy book to get through no in a way it is like a lot great book trying to tackle the north face of Everest but when you reach the peak you get a real sense of achievement also the work that Helen Lane put into translating this book which must have been hard as there is no real plot to follow as you do so.I will be trying his books again as I come across them Simon is very much a French modernist writer as a look of Amazon tells me he hasn’t any books in print at the moment it seems.
Have you read Simon ?