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THE IMPERSONAL ADVENTURE by Marcel Béalu
Translated by George MacLennan
Wakefield Press really have a knack for unearthing some strange, obscure little gems. That, as physical objects, they are marvel to behold only adds to the joy of stumbling across one in a bookstore. The Impersonal Adventure is peak Wakefield: a labyrinthine tale full of oddball characters, narrative cul-de-sacs and off-the-charts absurdist imagery. Penned in the aftermath of World War Two, it is an intriguing collision of allegory and complete fracture from reality.
From the outset I was reminded of Bruno Schulz or Ferenc Karinthy: a travelling salesman decides to leave his life behind and stay in a mysterious city. He assumes a ridiculous new name and checks in to a crumbling hotel on an adjoining island. From there he wanders the streets, with their maze of identically named curio shops, staffed by what appear to be mannequins. Everything is in flux. Unlikely relationships develop. As it all coalesces into something resembling a plot, some weird Freudian shenanigans take centre stage with dreams and lovers and murders and parents and… holy crap, what even was this? A splendid shtupping of the grey matter.
The Impersonal Adventure by Marcel Béalu (Tr. George MacLennan)
Wakefield Press, 2022