From Publishers Weekly
Vaguely about importing an Audi from France to deep in the Congo, this twisted tale becomes a canvas for French journalist Rolin's meditations, counter-histories, and digressions into the literature of colonialism, his first work of fiction to be translated into English. The narration begins as Rolin and his two Congolese companions blow a radiator hose on a desolate stretch of highway just short of their goal, Kinshasa. In addition to faulty mechanics, Rolin's adversaries will include petty thieves who menace the car at every step, bureaucrats in need of bribes, and the sheer absurdity of his quest. Told in small, overlapping fragments, this book is strewn with incidental detail, such as the death of Congolese freedom-fighter Lumumba, the social dynamics of cargo ship crews, and the paranoid theory that French authorities attempt to humiliate African immigrants by overheating the Paris subway. Rolin's snaking, clause-ridden sentences exude an ornery precision, mixing prosaic observations with literary allusion, snide humor, political critique, and personal history. This is a fine, understated novelistic essay only slightly weakened by its hodgepodge structure. (Apr.)
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“Jean Rolin is a companion with whom one can walk as one hears his clear and dispassionate voice, his wry humor . . . ‘One day I’ll have to tell this story, the story of my heroic death and the ensuing revolution,’ he announces on the final page. I look forward to this.” (Christian Authier - Le Figaro
“Like Sebald, Rolin is a master of sentence structure, honing his syntax with considerable elegance, allowing his sentences to reach beyond normative bounds in an effort to bring forth meaning more fully. He is not afraid to loiter here and there, taking his time to develop ideas he finds upon his way, as it were. Though the radiator hose explodes, there is no explosion of truth. Instead, through a deftly ironical and dispassionate gaze, Jean Rolin focuses most closely upon small things, the very ones which in the aggregate compose the fabric of existence in the first world, in the third world, or indeed in a fictional world.” (World Literature Today