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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

  

Eroshima

by
Dany Laferrière


general information | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Eroshima



Title: Eroshima
Author: Dany Laferrière
Genre: Novel
Written: 1987 (Eng. 1991)
Length: 87 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Eroshima - US
Eroshima - UK
Eroshima - Canada
Éroshima - Canada
Éroshima - France
  • Frenchtitle: Éroshima
  • Translated by David Homel

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Our Assessment:

B : loose collection of sex-and-Bomb-related riffs, but quite well done

See our review for fuller assessment.




The complete review's Review:

       Dany Laferrière's slim novel Eroshima is suffused with sex, with a background pall of nuclear apocalypse always hovering near. The two are connected for Laferrière:

     I discovered the Bomb at the same times I discovered Sex. I understood they both generated Death. The Bomb stands for collective, democratic, egalitarian death. Sex means individualistic, elitist, aristocratic death. The Bomb is death in a blinding flash of light. Sex is simmering death.
       He also wonders: "Shouldn't the prospect of looming annihilation propel us into an endless orgy ?" Despite the temptation, that's not entirely what Laferrière goes in for here; for one, he's also always meditative and pensive, rather than just instinctual; for another, while he also plays along he's often passive, in observer-mode.
       He also adds another of his preoccupations to the sex-and-atom-bomb mix, identity -- racial, national -- as he describes his encounters with several Japanese women, such as Hoki -- who, despite her name and background insists: "I was born in Vancouver. I am a North American woman".
       Near the end of the book admits:
     I am interested only in clichés, and the foremost cliché concerning Japan is eroticism.
       Building up on (and delving into) that cliché, Laferrière strays much farther, too. The Hiroshima connection -- the specifically Japanese experience of the atomic bomb -- is part of that. Typically, however, he jumps to other less immediate connections as well, such as Rita Hayworth (because of her likeness supposedly adorning the first H-bomb tested over Bikini Atoll), whose passing coincides with the time the action in the novel takes place (1987).
       Typically also for Laferrière, Eroshima is hardly a straightforward narrative; though called a novel, he refers to "these stories" in describing the project at the end, and they are, in part, distinct and unconnected pieces (some of which include or consist entirely of documentary quotes). The first person narrative ranges from a long first section, 'The Kama Sutra Zoo', which is divided not only into sections but also short, numbered episodes or observations, 150 of them over some forty pages, to much shorter reflective pieces. Elsewhere, there are encounters with Jean-Michel Basquiat, Norman Mailer, and Alberto Moravia, as well as a piece titled, 'A Henri Rousseau Landscape Revised by V.S.Naipaul' (in which Naipaul is presented as: "doing a hot new story for Rolling Stone. A thing on Port-au-Prince.").
       Laferrière favors the simply descriptive, his sentences often clipped (and he's not averse to the single-word sentence, either), but it always remains a very personal (rather than neutral or objective) perspective he offers. Eroshima offers variations on a theme that, while playing with cliché, rarely falls back on the obvious: this is not your usual mix of the sex-and-(atomic)-death story. He makes an astonishing number of connections, too: for all its brevity and light touch, Eroshima is a packed book, and his distinctive styles make for an intriguing, varied read. What 'happens' here is largely everyday (well, with some emphasis on the erotic), but Laferrière spins out an interesting variety of riffs on his subject matters, whether in the episodes with familiar figures such as Moravia and Naipaul or his essayistic digressions.
       Eroshima is most interesting when taken as part of Laferrière's larger body of work -- a near-continuum stretching from How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired to I am a Japanese Writer (two books that specifically tie in to this one) -- but it also offers rewards read simply on its own.

- M.A.Orthofer, 20 April 2011

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Links:

Eroshima:
  • Typo publicity page
Other books by Dany Laferrière under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Dany Laferrière was born in Haiti in 1953, and now lives in Canada.

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© 2011 the complete review

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