A Review of Louis Aragon’s PARIS PEASANT

I can do it in one acronym: WTF.

But I’ll elaborate a little so as not to seem like a cop out.  (ZOMG!)

As many of you know, one of my ultimate goals in life is to read audiobooks for a living –– I have yet to get my big break here, and that is either because a) I haven’t tried or b) even though I “read beautifully” (a blind man told me that!), my voice, like my face, is somewhat child-like, and maybe wouldn’t be the most hm, resounding way to experience, say, War and Peace.  Needless to say, in light of this, I think quite a lot when I’m reading about reading the text out loud, the words in my mouth, the intonation variations from character to character, and –– dare I be so self-parodic? I do –– the rhythm of my voice banging steadily on your ear drums.

This is all leading somewhere, I promise: after reading Louis Aragon’s Paris Peasant, I have to say unequivocally that if I could read any book for an audio version, this one would be it.  Why?  Because it is an almost completely senseless acid trip in prose.  I’m thinking of making into my demo and drinking a lot of absinthe pre-recording sesh and just CUTTING LOOSE on the mic.  What possibilities abound within!  Aragon often breaks the narrative (for lack of a vaguer word) to sing a little song about Reality (the chorus goes, “Once upon a time there was THE REALITY, the re, the re, the reality”)  There’s a lot of talk of the Abyss.  The good news is that I’m having a lot of fun with my gchat statuses –– recent choice quotes include “I fondle my delirium like a pretty pony” and “O Death, charming if slightly dusty child, here is a little palace for your flirtations.  Approach gently on your wobbly high heels, smooth down your taffeta dress, and dance.”  The bad news is that time and space have all but compressed for me.  After a long session of reading, I barely know my name, and I sure as hell don’t know what time it is.  The other day, I went to go try to find a quote I wanted, and while my memory isn’t the sharpest, usually I have at least some idea of where what I’m looking for is located.  This time, I had none.  Page 1?  Page 160?  Zero idea.

Case in point: an excerpt during which Aragon and friends, including Andre Breton, visit the Buttes Chaumont in Paris.  Finish this joke: Three Surrealists walk into a park…

“On the solemn oath of a statue, there is not a single activity in all the hundred thousand nooks and corners of space, not even philharmony or Nicolas billiards, which seems to me as ridiculous as psychology.  The confident thrust, the inevitability of this science… I would laugh at it if bronze enjoyed splitting its sides.  The fact remains, one evening man invented psychology.  The wind was howling like all the devils in hell and our chicken-hearted fellow trembled.  he saw his shadow, which soared up to the heavens at the slightest squall.  He wanted to find some explanation for this terrifying phenomenon.  This and the fact that the clouds were expiring in his hair, that the lightning had skewered his armor, that when his women were in labor they always dreamed of red fruits, that the forest’s shutters were clacking their teeth in the dark.  One by one, the various psychologies were born.  There was the psychology of material affinities, or chemistry, the psychology of forces, or physics, the psychology of God, or religion, the psychology of flesh, or medicine, the psychology of the unknown, or the metaphysic, the psychology of the sea, or the nautical art.  Content with very little, man, when confronted by any abyss, learned to make use of these detours to map the brinks of the abyss, to forget the abyss and the torments of the infinite.  Unshakeable human positivism: you never ask yourselves, you whose white hair floats lightly on your heads, what your phantom witnesses on their plinths engraved with famous names think of your trickeries, positive or not.  We, who speak with the sky, we, covered with dew, the mineral dancers feared by nights, we, the tamers of breezes, the charmers of birds, the guardians of silence, beneath the mind’s adorable chandelier that illuminates our irremediable attitudes, divine principles prisoners of our concrete liberty, we specific emanations of a great breath of inspiration, negations of time inundated by the sun, we, vagrant idols, vagabonds of metaphysics, we dominate with all the athletic stature of thought the formless swarming of the nations of insomnia.  Turn over on your mattresses, insane dreamers, the park is fresh and pure.  Already the mist is racing to our heads.  Already forgetful of your existence, tiny creatures, we get through to the star at its azure extension.  And in the process a meteoric tremor dispatches an aimless, hopeless blue panorama. Who’s speaking?  Divinity divined, here: who’s calling?  The kingdom of the absolute.  How are all the angelic creatures?  Very well, thank you.  The wing, it is the wing which appears in the whole breadth of its concept, stretched in a wide span above the statue kingdom.  The wing like an American flag fluttering in the air.  The wing endowed with a lyrical nature, soft down, an intrinsic whiteness, and an attractive arrangement of well preened feathers, the wing which constitutes a flowered firmament.”

So right about now you may be asking yourself –– wait a second, did Louis Aragon just write a hypothetical phone conversation between “Divinity divined” and the kingdom of the absolute?  Is that like, God and the Earth chatting on their Blackberries?  Does that mean that the angelic creatures are Divinity Divine’s posse of hos?  Did I accidentally just smoke crack?  Answer: yes.

And now, off to continue adapting this into a screenplay.  Bonsoiree!

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