Claude Simon – The Flanders Road (The Literateur, 2011)

Published in March 2010. Read the full review.

From the piece:

Not one for those scoping a quick and easy read, The Flanders Road is a book concerning the death of one aristocratic and thoroughly idiosyncratic World War II cavalry captain named de Reixach (pronounced, central character Georges informs his counterparts on more than one occasion, as ‘Reishach x like sch, ch like k’), and looks to piece together an account of the mysterious captain through the shared and personal memories of his war-time subordinates.

It’s a difficult process. Readers encounter the muddled accounts and interpretations of various acquaintances of the dead captain, as filtered through the impressions of those who served under him, from the emotional and poetic Georges (a member of de Reixach’s company and a distant cousin), to a former jockey in his employment – a man, incidentally, who has made the captain a cuckold – named Iglésia, plus the cynical and straight talking Blum, with whom Georges enters into long and complicated meditations when the two of them are held in captivity following de Reixach’s death.

Simple, you might think? Fortunately not. For in distancing his narrative from the very event which the narrative is looking to explore and define, Claude Simon is able to subvert and distort the centre of his own story quite dramatically, mixing memories and stories, entering into and leaving the thought patterns of his core characters, and playing with punctuation in a way that makes the novel incredibly difficult to follow but brilliantly multifarious.

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