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141 reviews Ivan Angelo. The Celebration, trans. Thomas Colchie. New York: Avon, 1982. 223 pp $2.95. John Krich. A Totally Free Man: An Unauthorized Autobiography of Fidel Castro. Berkeley: Creative Arts, 1982. 171 pp. $6.95 (paper), $15.00 (hardbound). Rolf Schneider. November, trans. Michael Bullock. New York: Alfred A.Knopf, 1981 . 235 pp. $11.95. This root, on the other hand, existed in such a way that I could not explain it. Knotty, inert, nameless, it fascinated me, fiUed my eyes, brought me back unceasingly to its own existence. In vain to repeat: "This is a root" — it didn't work any more. I saw clearly that you could not pass from its function as a root, as a breathing pump, to that, to this hard and compact skin of a sea Uon, to this oily callous, headstrong look. The function explained nothing: it allowed you to understand generally that it was a root, but not that one at all. This root, with its colour, shape, its congealed movement, was below all explanation . . . J.-P. Sartre, Nausea Thus Sartre's Roquentin, scribbling away in his journal, trying to find words that would do justice to the private, epiphanic moment just past. Yet the great value of Sartre's work as a whole Ues in his eventual recognition that the private, ontological feel of all such moments is itself a historical end product of a protracted social process of atomization and serialization. So understood, Roquentin's fascination with the root's inert "authenticity" and his honor at the apparent arbitrariness of its existence shed their romantic appearance as metaphysical impasse, and reveal themselves as the dialectical poles ofa crucial historical sign, a "morbid symptom" in Gramsci's words, of a social order which has gone on reproducing itself long after its dynamic, legitimating principles have evaporated or leaked away. Insofar as the three novels under discussion here take this recognition virtually as a given, we can of course draw one clear inference about them, sight unseen, titles unknown: these are not American books of "quality Uterature" as defined by the upper-middle-class, proto-academic code of pleasure and quality fiction, drawn up in collusion with the publishing industry of New York. Under the provisions of this code, as readers of Ann Beattie and others touted in the Times Book Review can easily affirm, alienation and the elusive search for authenticity may be depicted as endemic, so long as the depredations and (quite often, in this fiction) wry delights of the disease appear to operate privately, mysteriously, under the sign of character, the mark of the ineluctable, inexplicable individual Ufe, no matter how deliriously stunted, siUy, or forlorn. So as the old mad bUnd despised and dying king limps and mauls its way around and through us here in the U.S.A., the "quality fiction" of private Uves and mysterious estrangement continues to issue out, albeit in ever more threadbare form, from American writers and publishing houses all too eager to please their cUentele. Thank god, then, for the translations we can get from people in other countries where they know better, and for a few smaU presses here and there in the U.S. Thank god even for Brazilian Ivan Angelo's The Celebration, the least interesting of the three books noted here, yet the most warmly and widely reviewed in the American press. No surprise there, given its foreign origin plus the ineffectual nature of its treatment of its subject, the collision in time and space of a decadent upper-class birthday party and a brutally-repressed riot of desperate peasants in the provincial city of Minas Gerais, on March 30, 1970. Angelo has chosen to splinter these events into a fragmented coUage of past and present documents, testimonies, and pubUc and private monologues which we readers, in a now familiar modernist pact with the author, are to compose for ourselves around the absent center of the main events themselves. The aim of such a strategy, of course, as Angelo himself declares on the book's back cover, is "to make the reader an accomplice not only in snap- 142 the minnesota review ing the actual...


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