Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Ann Quin, Passages (1969)

It's Quin's third novel. Limping along to the finish line...okay, so this one is about a woman and her lover, who are traveling around the Mediterranean looking for her brother, who may or may not be dead. Well, that's what they're allegedly doing. What they're mainly doing is getting harassed by secret police and having unhealthy (and, in many cases, almost certainly illegal) sex with random strangers. The novel consists of two sections of narration from each of them, the first (mostly--it's sometimes kind of hard to tell) from the woman, freely switching between first- and third-person, and the second from the man in the form of a journal of-sorts, with abstruse annotations running down the left-hand side of the pages. And that's about it. At barely over a hundred pages, this is Quin's shortest novel.

A plot description doesn't tell you that much, though. They were not kidding when they said that Quin's prose becomes increasingly fragmented and obscure per novel. This is VERY fractured stream-of-consciousness where events are difficult to concretely make out and it's difficult to say whether any damn thing is actually happening. We are in a realm of pure subjectivity, and I think it's fair to say that at this point we've definitively moved from the modern to the postmodern. Georg Luk√°cs would not be pleased. I mean, he wouldn't have been pleased with her first two novels either, but this would REALLY bring down his wrath. Not that I care much.

So well but the question is, what did I think? And I'm not gonna lie to you: I feel like I could go either way with this one. There were definitely parts that I kind of enjoyed, or at least appreciated the prose. Unlike Three, I do think there's plenty of there there for anyone willing to look for it. On the other, I won't deny it: it can get pretty tedious. It's a GOOD THING that this is Quin's shortest novel, because it would be unbearable were it much longer, and I think even really big fans would have to concede as much. Which isn't necessarily to condemn it, but, well...I dunno. Look, let's just push through her last novel and then get back to things that are perhaps more to our taste. Excelsior.


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