by Louis Armand
ISBN 1-876857-05-6 (fiction). 108pp.
Published: 2001
Publisher: Salt Publishing (Cambridge, UK)

Price: USD 12.95 (not including postage)

Louis Armand's The Garden, exemplifies more bold trends in the internationalization of Australian literature. Written in an experimental form borrowing from the French recit as practiced by the likes of Maurice Blanchot, this work consists of a cascade of unpunctuated disorienting prose drifting between subject and object, traversing spatial and temporal warpings as well as boundaries of imagination and reality. At times, the flow momentarily twists into interjections seemingly reflecting upon its own possibility, which: functions in weightlessness against a vertical backdrop where everything is in suspense a cliff face echoing between lines of noise on the margins of a sea traversed by an emergence of meaning which is perhaps a mere surface effect concealing the abyss of the seduction of language a recit of the wave's journey as it draws ever over to the receding shoreline ...
--Sebastian Gurciullo, Colloquy: Text, Theory, Critique

"An idea began to form of her body as a hive of wounds that somehow pre-existed an implement a secret mutilation from within." She is everywhere here, and yet always she is not quite. The text is always too early or too late to hear. The more it chases her the more she slips the line of its noose. Text working a different time from what it desires. "I opened my mouth and a stone fell out." This is a text haunted by feeling. It deals in abstract emotions, delicately. "Fragments of lost intimacies." There's a practice, an ascetic aesthetic, for moving toward feeling in the pure form of its impurity. "But to experience oneself as cut off from others is also to hold open the possibility of transcending this isolation entering into all of those lives experiencing them like a mirror in which no division of time or space prevails." You sense it when you think you can't.
--McKenzie Wark, Saline

Louis Armand's "The Garden" is a single text, presented as prose, but definitely "poet's prose" (to borrow a term from the US critic Stephen Fredman used for the kind of hybrid poetry / prose work of Gertrude Stein, Robert Creeley and William Carlos Williams). What Armand presents us with here is a poetic novella produced as a single unpunctuated sentence; but a disjunctive one, where the viewpoint of the narrative switches fluidly between two principle characters: an unnamed man and a woman called simply "m". There is another subjectivity, a writing "presence" which could be Armand, could be an extension of the male character (or both?). The fluidity covers time as well, we keep looping back to the same few important scenes, glimpsed in different ways from each perspective. One thing is apparent -- somehow somebody has died, and it becomes clear that it is "m". The atmosphere of "The Garden" reminds me a lot of the work of the French fiction writer and theorist Maurice Blanchot - sparsely described interiors, characters who remain effectively faceless, an atmosphere of cold yet sometimes desperate alienation. It's an utterly European Modernism, rather than the American-influenced modes we mostly receive -- but then Armand lives in Prague. The writer-figure interests me: his own consciousness seems to flow out exhausting itself in a stream of words a literal death sentence & and what if it goes on write until you can't stand it any more then give it up if you don't want to give up go on until you can't stand it any more This pinpoints a kind of obsessive drive in the writing which becomes particularly extreme towards the end of the book when the male character is clearly trying to come to terms with (the manner of) m's protracted demise and things get a little too surreal, a little too gratuitously violent. At that point you almost lose the really exciting aspect of the poem, which is just this shifting between narrative aspects and subjectivities, a kind of stream-of-consciousnesses.
--Keith Jebb (From POETRY REVIEW "Full Circle" Volume 92 No. 1 Spring 2002 Extracted from "I AM FROM LANGUAGE")

Louis Armand is director of the InterCultural Studies programme in the Philosophy Faculty of Charles University, Prague. His books include Solicitations: Essays on Criticism & Culture; Techne: James Joyce, Hypertext & Technology; and Incendiary Devices: Discourses of the Other.

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