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Pachyderme h/c

Pachyderme h/c back

Frederik Peeters

Price: 
14.99

Page 45 Review by Dominique

You know those dreams where you are hopelessly lost in a large building but then the wall opens up and you step inside what appears to be your own womb except it is full of trees and tiny sad babies who won’t leave you alone? Well, I am happy to report that this is one of those kind of books.

I love a circular tale; a story that seems to make sense, then begins to crack, becoming implausible before finally being resolved into a satisfying, edifying whole. Here the tale begins with a woman on her way to a hospital to see her husband who has been in an accident. Her car breaks down and so she decides to continue on foot; the first of many decisions which seem reasonable in isolation but which, when you step back and think about it, seem a bit off. That’s another thing I love, the surreal aspects of a story being introduced skilfully, building a sense of off-kilterness slowly. There is no “weird for weirdness sake” here, every event flows from the last in a seemingly reasonable fashion but with a growing edge of not-quite-rightness. Thus, when the strangeness really kicks in it does not feel jarring or contrived, it just draws you along with it.

Though all we seem to do is follow a confused woman around a hospital there are a few meaty issues to this story. Post-war paranoia is one: the book is set in Europe in the ‘50s so memories are still fresh and bitter. The role of the wife is another, also the frustrated artist, the barren woman, the political ideologue, the wistful Imperialist are all touched upon but not in a heavy-handed way. The pervading sense of weirdness in the story means that the book stays engaging and interesting as we are never quite sure what will turn up around the next corner.
The book is a translation into English which also lends it an extra edge of quirkiness, for want of a better word. Little things like sound effects and background chatter are written in a slightly different way to that which you would see in a native English book and I really liked that. For me it added to the sense of otherness and bewilderment as we wander round an unfamiliar place, trying to make sense of stuff that just does not seem to fit together right, looking for a reasonable conclusion.

If you like David Lynch films and other such strange journeys I think you will find PACHYDERME a very enjoyable and satisfying read. Plus the cover recommendation is by Jean Moebius Giraud which speaks volumes!

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