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  • Adapted Voices: Transpositions of Céline’s ‘Voyage au bout de la nuit’ and Queneau’s ‘Zazie dans le métro’ by Armelle Blin-Rolland
  • Greg Hainge
Adapted Voices: Transpositions of Céline’s ‘Voyage au bout de la nuit’ and Queneau’s ‘Zazie dans le métro’. By Armelle Blin-Rolland. (Transcript, 2.) Oxford: Legenda, 2015. 192 pp., ill.

The approach taken by Armelle Blin-Rolland’s book seems, on the surface, entirely logical. Concentrating on Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s Voyage au bout de la nuit and Raymond Queneau’s Zazie dans le métro, both of which imported a slang-filled, spoken-register language into the realm of high literature, and were revolutionary in their own way for doing so, Blin-Rolland begins by examining the importance of the notion of ‘voice’ in these novels. Having taken each primary work in turn, she then goes on to investigate what happens when the ‘voice’ (or voices, rather) of these novels are adapted or ventriloquized in other media. In subsequent chapters, she thus examines Jacques Tardi’s illustrated version of Voyage (Paris: Gallimard/Futuropolis, 1988) and the illustrated versions of Zazie by Jacques Carelman (Paris: Gallimard, 1966) and Clément Oubrerie (Paris: Gallimard Jeunesse, 2008) before passing to a consideration of Louis Malle’s film version of Zazie (1960) and various recorded readings of Voyage. The juxtaposition of the two main primary works under consideration here is therefore justified not only by the convergence to be found between them but also by the fact that both have been adapted into graphic and recorded forms of one kind or another. In spite of this, however, there exist many differences between the originary works and the adaptations that are lined up next to each other here, differences that are often so great as to make it somewhat unclear how the reader is supposed to gain any overarching insight into the concept of ‘voice’ and what precisely this might mean in the various media forms under consideration—this being the avowed aim of the book. Blin-Rolland is not blind (or deaf) to this fact and indeed the first two chapters carry out a compelling analysis of the different operations of polyphony in Céline’s and Queneau’s texts. As the book progresses, however, the extent to which the various versions of these texts are characterized by difference rather than commonality becomes more and more apparent, and this is so not only in relation to the set of Céline-related texts in relation to their Quenellian counterparts, but also across the different texts within each of these sets. Ultimately, then, the job of finding a compelling argument to bring all of these different texts and approaches together becomes harder and harder, leading to a somewhat unsatisfying conclusion that does not deliver on its promise. As a result, the book does not really constitute a major contribution to scholarship on the concept of voice, yet undoubtedly remains, for all of that, a valuable contribution to studies of both Céline and Queneau and adaptation studies. In the final analysis, the polyphony at play in this book is a discordant rather than harmonious one, and readers are advised to follow only those vocal lines of specific interest to them. [End Page 617]

Greg Hainge
University of Queensland


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