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The Skin of My Dreams – Raymond Queneau



Posted September 2, 2016 by

The Skin of My Dreams – Raymond Queneau – 1944

Reviewed by: Christopher Moore         Date: 5 November 2004

Who is Jacques l’Aumône?

This short novel begins and ends in the atelier of the unknown poet Louis-Philippe des Cigales, literary legend of the Parisian suburb of Rueil, and chronic sufferer of existential ontalgia. Des Cigales is a family friend of Jacques’ father, a boring bourgeois and Rueil’s lone sock-maker. Young Jacques accompanies des Cigales to the movies – American Westerns – in which the infinite possibilities of human existence play upon his fertile imagination. The moving camera lucida and its depiction of the chimerical and fantastic permeate the very mechanisms that alight l’Aumône’s mental representation of the world; he sees himself as the founder of the dynasty of the Laumoningiens, boxing champ, pope, opera singer, ascetic loner and documentarian of the Borgeiros Indians. Or is he a pharmacist, actor in an ambulant theatre group, movie extra, irresistible male and/or inadequate lover? Or is Jacques l’Aumône a fiction within a fiction, an imaginary ideal for the frustrated artist figure, des Cigales, whose only real success is with the easy girls that visit his mansard? Or is Jacques l’Aumône really no one other than James Charity, a cinematographic illusion made in Hollywood that anybody can become in the playful world of their dreams? Queneau’s prose pays homage to the rapidity and discontinuity of the cinema. He is a “book director” unafraid of special effects (invented words, extravagant puns and calembours, sentences that don’t finish as if overwhelmed by noise either “on page” or off) and temporal juxtapositions all held together with a master’s ear, eye and pen. Peopled with a battalion of secondary figures, from the disarming simplicity of the tragic Lulu Doumer to the not-so-dignified pharmacist, Mr. Linaire, des Cigales’ some-time saviour thanks to his antidote for the existential crises of poets, the Ontalgocure des Joyeux Sansonnets, Queneau’s novel succeeds in taking you far from Rueil. Or wherever or whoever you may happen to be.

ReadLit Team


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