clair obscur

a novel, by Louis Armand

ISBN 978-80-260-0112-6. Paperback. 288pp. Publication date: October 2011. Equus Press: Prague & London.
Price: € 18.00 (not including postage).

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Kindle edition available from Amazon

Set against the backdrop of the 1990s war in former-Yugoslavia, Clair Obscur presents a sustained reflection on memory, guilt, fantasy and desire in late twentieth-century Europe. Its cinematic prose ranges between forensic realism and poetic psychology, like the films of Resnais and Bertolucci its language frequently evokes. Written from a screenplay that won honourable mention at the 2009 Alpe Adria Trieste International Film Festival.

“Using the potential threat posed by the camera’s presence, Armand implicates the reader, demonstrating how constant surveillance can undercut our understanding of what is real and what is not. He asks us how we can ‘take responsibility for things which don’t exist’ if we are awake or asleep, and if we ‘know anything about objects, what causes them?'” (Barbara Bridger, Warwick Review)

“This is a poet’s novel, when it is not a filmmaker’s or a painter’s, and should be enjoyed as a multimedia, multilinguistic experience.” (Erik Martiny, The Iowa Review)

Clair Obscur explores the relations between cinematic and literary writing as containers of, and vehicles for, memory. Reminiscent of Alain Resnais’ or Jean-Luc Godard’s cinema and Alain Robbe-Grillet’s and Samuel Beckett’s fiction—though in no way reducible to any one of them—Armand’s novel reads history, both personal and general, as a palimpsest of place-bound traumas, as a ghost-story of ever-eluding loss in which ‘only the dead return.'” (Robert Kiely, London Student)

“This lyric, open-ended novel spans several years in the early 1990s and ranges from Prague to Trieste and Bosnia in a meditation on time, loss and recovery.” (The Prague Post)


The voice was familiar. It was the actress from the studio. Meret, she called herself, like the Egyptian goddess of the eighth hour. They’d spoken together at the Villa Veneziani after Van’s screening. They’d both been drinking. It was obvious, Chiara had thought, that something was going on between the two of them (her and Van). There was no denying the actress was beautiful, she herself had felt affected by it (her beauty) the first time she’d seen her on the screen. Chiara! She turned. Meret was leaning now against the wall, laughing, pulling Chiara towards her, into her arms. Suddenly she kissed her. Her mouth was slack and somehow shapeless and tasted of gin, vermouth and cigarettes. Disgust made Chiara recoil from the embrace and immediately Meret slid down the wall into a crooked sitting position, her silhouette now visible at the edge of the lamplight. Her bare feet jutted from beneath the torn hem of her dress as she laughed, helplessly. Can’t you even stand up? Chiara’s voice was slightly mocking, tense. She didn’t care about the answer. The foreknowledge of what was to come galled her. I prefer it down here. It makes me feel smaller. That laughter again. A high-pitched, birdlike laughter. And then a hissing sound, and a rush of water on the flagstones. Meret lifted the hem of her dress for Chiara to see how she’d pissed herself, looking up in childish astonishment. A pool of urine had gathered between her feet and was slowly spreading, the dull reflection of the lamplight shimmering across it like paracelene. And then, quite ridiculously, she tried to stand back up, sliding to one side and eventually falling flat on her face…






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"Modernity today is not in the hands of the poets, but in the hands of the cops" // Louis Aragon
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“I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for?…we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us” // Franz Kafka, letter to Oskar Pollack, 27 January 1904
March 2021
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