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Archive for May, 2013

How “Inferno” Fails to Set the World on Fire

Looking forward to a Dan Brown novel is a curious psychological phenomenon, writes reviewer Matthew Dentith: Brown has never gathered accolades with respect to clever prose or complex characters. Indeed, until the publication of his third book, “The Da Vinci Code”, a Dan Brown book was merely something you wouldn’t feel guilty reading in an airport lounge. His new novel, “Inferno”, has all the stock Dan Brown features. Characters with distinguishing but unnatural traits (pustulant sores for one, female baldness for another), a daring damsel (with exceptional talents and, crucially, the ability to fall instantly in love with the protagonist), a conspiratorial cartel with no ethical compass and, finally, a hero in Robert Langdon, an academic who is more obsessed by the suits he wears than the courses he teaches at Harvard. So, how is “Inferno” as a novel? Well, it has all the standard set pieces you would expect: chase scenes, a succession of daring escapes and the obligatory chapter-long pieces of exposition. People swap sides and the sinister organisation, which is made out to be very powerful, also turns out to be comprised of very, very stupid people. And it has a protagonist who seems to have lost interest in the plots of his author.

A Voice from the Shadows

Self-Shadowing Prey, one of the final texts by the Romanian poet Ghérasim Luca (1913-1994), combines surrealist playfulness with an impetus for rigour that does not shy away from revising, expanding, and rearranging ordinary vocabularies and meanings. Indeed, much of Luca’s life and work suggests a poetics of dislocation on several, intensifying levels: first, as self-dislocation, in the assumption of the pseudonym by the emerging Jewish-Romanian artist; second, by the artist’s migration — and movement into another language — from Bucharest to Paris. Finally, there is the dislocation in poetic practice, occasioned by the confrontation with the very historical forces compelling such migration. The result, in the words of reviewer Michael G. Kelly, are works which ‘bathe in a carefully modulated and sustained sense of menace where language’s porosity, the compossibility of contrasting and overlapping meanings, heightens the lack of ease that is fundamental to the poet’s artistic subjectivity’.