Impressions of Africa

2016
Softcover, 14 × 23,2 cm, 352 p.
Design: Camillo Paravicini, Basel
Essays: Raymond Roussel, Stefan Zweifel
German
ISBN 978-3-906016-66-5
CHF 38.– / EUR 35.–

Raymond Roussel (1877–1933) joins the ranks of literature’s most bizarre practitioners. When his novel Impressions d’Afrique came out in Paris in 1910, it was a resounding flop and paradoxically destined to become one of the most successful flops in world literature. Two years later Marcel Duchamp discovered the principle of the readymade while attending a dramatized version of the novel, turning Roussel into an icon of the Surrealists.

Impressions of Africa is a unique and absolute literary achievement: the writer contrived his story with the help of a poetic device never revealed during his lifetime. He started with homonyms or near homonyms found in song lyrics or colloquial phrases. These he shifted and recombined to yield the motifs, images and entire subplots for his novel. Roussel was celebrated as a source of inspiration not only by writers but also by many artists: Max Ernst, Man Ray, Salvador Dalí, Jean Cocteau, Francis Picabia, Marcel Broodthaers, Rodney Graham, Jim Jarmusch, Sigmar Polke and Markus Raetz, to name but a few. In recent years, numerous exhibitions have drawn attention to his impact on the fine arts in the twentieth century. Stefan Zweifel has studied Raymond Roussel’s drafts and manuscripts for his revised translation of the novel. His afterword and documents, some of which are published here for the first time, provide further illuminating insights into Roussel’s poetic device.