1913, 218 pages
Based on uniquely eccentric principles of composition, this book invites the reader to enter a world which, in its innocence and extravagance, is unlike anything in the literature of the twentieth century
Canterel, a scholarly scientist, whose enormous wealth imposes no limits upon his prolific ingenuity, is taking a group of visitors on a tour of "Locus Solus," his secluded estate near Paris. One by one he introduces, demonstrates, and expounds the discoveries and inventions of his fertile, encyclopedic mind. An African mud-sculpture representing a naked child; a road-mender's tool which, when activated by the weather, creates a mosaic of human teeth; a vast aquarium in which humans can breathe and in which a hairless cat is seen stimulating the partially decomposed head of Georges Danton to fresh flights of oratory. By each item in Canterel's exhibition there hangs a tale—a tale only Roussel could tell. As the inventions become more elaborate, the richness and brilliance of the author's stories grow to match them; the flow of his imagination becomes a flood and the reader is swept along in a torrent of wonder and hilarity.
Cross-posted to books1001.
Evokes Roald Dahl, Rube Goldberg, Dr. Seuss, and Mark Z. Danielewski.
Verdict: Does Locus Solus belong on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list? It is certainly memorable and strange. I think it's unique and a work of genius, so any serious reader probably should tackle it at some point. That said, the linguistic density and plotless surrealism were more of an experience than a pleasure, and I can see why Roussel isn't widely read today outside of literature classes. There is one other book by Raymond Roussel on the books1001 list, and I think I would approach it with a bottle of booze and/or aspirin.
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