Naming the Jungle

Antoine Volodine, Naming the Jungle / traduit en anglais par Linda Coverdale, New York : New Press, 2005, 167 p.

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From Publishers Weekly
The American debut of a French writer is an intense, hallucinatory novel of a man’s daring psychological ruse to protect himself from political brutality. Fabian Golpiez, a Jucapira Indian in a fictitious post-revolutionary South American country, is interrogated alternately by a psychiatrist and by local security forces as he tries to untangle a confession, or at least tell a story, from his feverish memory. Employing a strange ritual, the psychiatrist displays images on a slide projector that prompt Fabian to tell his tale. But the Indian feigns madness in order to conceal his past associations with both sides of the civil war?a one-night love affair with a guerrilla commando, and some time spent peripherally assisting an authoritarian judge in his inquisitions. Meanwhile, Fabian plans vaguely to escape into the jungle with an associate and with his lover, a nurse. The actual story has a sparseness that contrasts with the lush lexicon of Volodine’s imagined jungle: e.g., « surucating » (making love), « caranguejeira » (a type of spider); « jacare » (alligators). While the author undercuts his rich style with a certain self-consciousness, and his narrative lacks a vital dynamic dimension, his talent surfaces time and again in luxurious, hypnotic ways.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal
The jungle city of Puesto Libertad is reorganizing itself after a revolution. Imperialist speech is forbidden; only tribal vocabularies are acceptable. Anyone unable or unwilling to call a spider a « caranguejeira » is in big trouble, including war veteran Fabian Golpiez, who is suspected of disloyalty. To defer interrogation by the brutal police, Fabian agrees to undergo treatment by the grotesque Dr. Goncalves, a shaman-psychiatrist. As the therapy proceeds, Fabian is shaken to learn that he shares with Goncalves not only a first name but a lover, a violent past, and a wholly uncertain future. Fantastic events unfold in a surreal atmosphere of unresolved questions. While not likely to generate popular interest, this novel (Volodine’s first appearance in English) will appeal to readers of experimental fiction. Buy where demand warrants.
Starr E. Smith, Marymount Univ., Arlington, Va.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

New York Times Book Review
Clever and incisive.

The Nation
Volodine writes with a confident and engaging style. . . [His] quirky and eccentric narrative achieves quite staggering and electric effects. . . Naming the Jungle, dazzling in its epic proportions and imaginative scope, will richly reward anyone interested in modern French writing, works on South America and a sharply original voice.

Book Description
In France, Antoine Volodine’s lush surrealist style has been compared to Franz Kafka and Lewis Carroll, with some critics hailing him as a literary successor to Robbe-Grillet. Naming the Jungle tells the story of Fabian Golpiez, a rebel in Puesto Libertad’s recently concluded civil war. As officials of the newly installed military dictatorship question him, Golpiez feigns madness. What ensues is a hypnotic interplay between inquisitor and madman.

Feigning madness in order to escape being tortured by the revolutionary secret police, Latin American civil war survivor Fabian Golpiez is forced to use indigenous names in order to prove his innocence and true Tupi Indian identity.

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