‘Amerika’ by Karim Ghahwagi (Passport Levant MMXI).
CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.
All my real-time reviews are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/
All my Ex Occidente Press (Passport Levant) real-time reviews here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/ex-occidente-press-real-time-reviews/
AMERIKA is a beautiful sewn hardcover book of 64 pages with stiff red dust-jacket bearing an outline of a cat, silk ribbon, endpapers and a full-colour frontispiece by Armand Henrion (Self Portrait, Clown with Monocle). The edition limited to 100 hand numbered copies. My copy is numbered 50 and possesses exceptionally aesthetic yet heavy-duty page paper. The red board covers beneath the dust jacket bear the word ‘Meow!’ on the front, and nothing else anywhere.
Pages 9 – 38
“You cannot write a sequel of The Master and Margarita! You were supposed to write a travel book about Malta!”
Two parallel scenes in an effective Absurdist mode, with some character names as names of countries leading to a Bulgakovian*-Swiftian tendency towards the Land of Lacuna (my words, not the book’s) – concerning much that is obstreperous as well as geographically laconic. I can imagine it, so far, as a stage play where I’m watching from the wings rather than the auditorium. (*I am cheating there a bit as the quote at the start of the book is from Bulgakov). (8 Mar 11)
[The scenes take place in Copenhagen, and the photograph at the head of my overall Real-Time Reviews website was taken by me there.] (8 Mar 11 – two hours later)
Pages 38 – 63
Obstreperous, maybe, but in this section, “this is preposterous!”
,,,”A cartography of bewilderment”.
For me, this ends on a very personal note, and those in the know will know why (and this, rest assured, is not a spoiler for ‘Amerika’, and indeed nothing can spoil it): “How can there be a room there? It appears to be suspended beyond the outer wall of the building.”
There are anthropomorphic matters, also, that remind me of incidents in the Cern Zoo.
Above all, it is something you will either love or hate. I loved it. Its satiric-absurdism is spot on. I dare not tell you more about it, because then I would be creating spoilers. Especially about the cat. And a door like a door from King’s ‘The Dark Tower’ (something I’m coincidentally real-time reviewing at the moment).
If you want to live in a Magritte painting and its hinterland, then you will love this novellarette. (8 Mar 11 – another 3 hours later)
BTW, the word ‘novellarette’ has never been used before, according to Google.
5 responses to “Amerika – by Karim Ghahwagi”
There is a memorable scene in AMERIKA about the non-flammability of a manuscript or book. This book – the way it’s made – must have been the model for that! Retrocausality in action.
But I think the term ‘Novellarette’ has already caught alight….
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A list of all Ex Occidente books: http://admtoah.wordpress.com/other-ex-occidente-zagava-books/
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