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).
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 nouvelle-vague films its language frequently evokes. Written from a screenplay that won honourable mention at the 2009 Trieste International Film Festival.
Armand’s third published volume of prose explores the relations between cinematic and literary writing as containers of, and vehicles for, memory. Reminiscent of Alain Resnais’s 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 both personal and general history as a palimpsest of place-bound traumas, as a ghost-story of ever-eluding loss in which “only the dead return.”
“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)
EXCERPTThe impression is that the film, no sooner set in motion, follows its own independent will. That the film imposes its own secret logic on the projection’s ritual chronology. Between the real world and the reel world.M is looking directly ahead into the lens of the camera. She’s revealed making her confession, confiding her story, as though she’d just reached the end of it. A confession which could almost be summed up by the three words she speaks just as her features dissolve and a series of other, equally provisional images appear on the screen.Life.Death.Survival.