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The Explosion of the Radiator Hose: A Novel (French Literature Series) Paperback – April 5, 2011


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Product Details

  • Series: French Literature Series
  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1564786323
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564786326
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #764,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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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Review

“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)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Digital Rights on March 18, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Explosion of the Radiator Hose" is proof-positive that there is a story inside everyone and about anything. Nominally fiction but clearly based on something real from Jean Rolin's life is the unlikely story of exporting a car from France, escorting it to a port city in Africa and driving overland to it's final destination of Kinshasa, Congo. Along the way Rolin gives us crisp 100+/- word snippets of the boats, the bureaucrats, the cops and robbers and some of the most shiny anecdotes of life in the Congo. In several occasions there are brilliant summaries of who's who in the world of dictators and who put them there or took them out.

Rolin's narrator previously lived in the Congo or Zaire as the son of a French diplomat. He's heading back after an absence of over 20 years. He's curious, somewhat sentimental and obviously on for an adventure. It's witty, intelligent, sometimes whimsical and ultimately comes across as a sincerely painted pastiche of one heck of a quixotic journey.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ethan Cooper VINE VOICE on May 19, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In THE EXPLOSION OF THE RADIATOR HOSE, journalist and novelist Jean Rolin accompanies a used Audi as it journeys from Paris to Kinshasa, where it will become a taxi. In the first 30 pages of this novel/memoir, the Audi has broken down on the road to Kinshasa ("...the thick rubber pipe, split along its entire length like a sizzling sausage bursting out of its skin.") and Rolin and his comrade Nsele wait in the car as their mate Patrice hitchhikes to the next village and its "Audi dealership" where he is supposed to secure a new radiator hose.

As Rolin waits, he considers the military vehicles passing on the road, the quixotic nature of his journey, the weirdly vital superstitions of Africa, the delicacy of his interaction with Nsele, the brutal political history of the Congo, and his privileged upbringing at the French embassy in Leopoldville. In these ruminations, Rolin exhibits a wonderfully ironic and droll touch, which enables him to connect his roadside feeling of vulnerability and the gruesome history of the Congo to his odd quest and its rich literary underpinnings. The outcome is delightful book, where a narrator with a funny worrier's sensibility conveys the dark but striving nature of the Congo.

The character Rolin, who is an avid reader, tells most of his story using media res. Here, EXPLOSION starts in the incapacitated Audi and ends as Rolin wanders around the venal and bullying Kinshasa. But most of this short book follows him as he participates in the purchase, shipping, and delivery of the Audi. In doing so, the amusing Rolin compares his endeavor to that of the fisherman in Hemingway's THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA, where enterprise mixes with futile heroism.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 27, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What an unlikely premise for a book!: A Frenchman and a former Congolese soldier now working as a security guard in Paris form a plan to export a used Audi to Kinshasa, where the soldier's family can operate it as a taxi and supplement their meager livelihood. In the summer of 2007 they do just that, with the Frenchman accompanying the Audi the entire journey, from Paris to Antwerp, by ocean freighter to Pointe-Noire, Cabinda, by another cargo ship to Matadi, a port on the Congo River, and then driven overland to Kinshasa. It is a journey bedeviled by all sorts of bureaucratic/political obstacles - and, in the last one hundred kilometers, by the explosion of a radiator hose.

Doesn't sound very promising, does it? About the same potential, say, as a monologue by a German exile perambulating through the County of Suffolk in East Anglia. But then again, that is a thumbnail description of W.G. Sebald's "The Rings of Saturn" - in my opinion one of the greatest books of the past quarter century. And THE EXPLOSION OF THE RADIATOR HOSE bears some similarities to "The Rings of Saturn", not the least of which is that it mixes travelogue, history, memoir, and whimsy in an almost intoxicating brew.

A large part of the venture's attraction for author Jean Rolin was that it enabled him to return to Kinshasa, where he lived as a youth and where his father was still stationed when he, as a nineteen-year-old, was injured in Paris during the May 1968 protests. His return to the continent, country, and city of his past triggered many personal memories that are also interwoven into the book.

The charms of THE EXPLOSION OF THE RADIATOR HOSE are manifold.
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