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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

A Terrace in Rome

by
Pascal Quignard


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase A Terrace in Rome



Title: A Terrace in Rome
Author: Pascal Quignard
Genre: Novel
Written: 2000 (Eng. 2016)
Length: 117 pages
Original in: French
Availability: A Terrace in Rome - US
A Terrace in Rome - UK
A Terrace in Rome - Canada
Terrasse à Rome - Canada
Terrasse à Rome - France
Auf einer Terrasse in Rom - Deutschland
Terraza en Roma - España
  • French title: Terrasse à Rome
  • Translated by Douglas Penick and Charles Ré
  • With an introduction by Douglas Penick

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Our Assessment:

B+ : tight, effective artist-novel

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
L'Express . 10/2/2000 Daniel Rondeau
FAZ A+ 22/8/2003 Niklas Bender
NZZ . 20/6/2002 Thomas Laux
World Lit. Today . Spring/2001 Adma d'Heurle


  From the Reviews:
  • "L'estampe imprime son caractère au livre. Cette méditation sur la douleur d'aimer, sur la violence de ce désir d'absolu où l'homme se dépouille de sa propre vie, nous est livrée en chapitres brefs (certains longs seulement de quelques lignes), dans un style épuré et concis, libéré de l' «asservissement de séduire», et tourné vers l'essentiel." - Daniel Rondeau, L'Express

  • "(E)in grandioser Roman (.....) Quignard geht es um mehr als eine literarische Verfahrensweise. Sie ist Ausdruck einer Weltanschauung, die im Roman oft explizit wird" - Niklas Bender, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Sein bewegtes privates wie künstlerisches Leben wird von dem französischen Romancier in eigentümlich lakonischer Weise skizziert, die Form sticht bei diesem gerade mal 120 Seiten starken Roman deutlich hervor. Mit seinen kurzen, prägnanten Sätzen, seinem elliptischen Stil kitzelt Quignard die Erwartungshaltung des Lesers. (...) Auf einer Terrasse in Rom ist ein diaphan wie obskur wirkendes Juwel, das auch bei wiederholter Betrachtung nichts von seinem Charme verliert." - Thomas Laux, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "It is a novel that is also a biography, a portrait of an age, a historical epic, a story told through a succession of images and disconnected scenes rather than through a continuous narrative voice. (...) Terrasse à Rome is in essence a meditation on love and suffering and the violence of a passion unrequited and absolute. Its beauty lies in the pure language that describes a particular state of soul with the precision and economy of an exquisite engraving, a language incisive, pure, and devoid of any literary embellishment." - Adma d'Heurle, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       A Terrace in Rome is a life-of story, of a fictional artist, engraver Geoffroy Meaume (1617-1667), recounted in short chapters that range from straightforward exposition to descriptions of examples of his art to accounts of some of his dreams. It presents a variety of markers of his life -- people, places, incidents, examples of his art -- but also leaves great blanks, giving the reader enormous leeway in filling in and rounding out the portrait.
       In a first chapter, little over a page in length, Meaume already sums up his life, including many of the significant bits that are later revisited in (slightly) more depth. The defining event in his life was when he was caught with the woman he fell deeply in love with by her fiancé, who threw acid in his face, horribly disfiguring him. Nevertheless, he went on to enjoy considerable success as an engraver (working, as such, constantly with acid ...) and, after leading a peripatetic existence, even died a wealthy man.
       Life for artists of the time is described as: "a succession of cities", as they constantly move from one place to the next. Meaume's account already begins with apprenticeships that saw him in a variety of locales; after he is disfigured, and given his profession, there is little question of him settling down. He does form close relationships, both professionally and personally, including with prominent artists of the day such as Claude Lorrain, as well as a woman, Marie, and before his death comes face to face with a piece of his past, a reminder of the love of his life and the almost-family he had and lost.
       Meaume struggles, variously, as an artist, and has adventures of sorts over the years. Among the digressions is one particular commission, when he is asked to make erotic engravings to inspire a young man who finds himself unable to perform his marital duties -- something not even Meaume's art can cure.
       At one point Meaume explains himself and his art as: "I am a man whom images attack. I create images from the night". He finds escape and relief in art, but it also can't compensate entirely for what was lost. Yet his "face of boiled leather" does not, ultimately, separate him absolutely from others; behind it, too: "his eyes wide open, sparkling, attentive" can, for example, even tempt a woman like Maria Aidelle.
       Quignard often tends towards the elliptical and fragmentary in his writing; A Terrace in Rome is still a robust construct in comparison to some of his work, but, while recognizably still a novel, is also already a work where much is left unsaid. Yet the many-faceted approach, of all these different bits of description and information, makes for a rich, sweeping picture -- larger than its not much more than a hundred pages might have initially suggested. There's also a lot to the story: it is a surprisingly gripping tale, too, with all that happens to Meaume (and some of those around him).
       An appealing exercise in (fictional) biography and the presentation of a talented artist who is marked by tragedy and lost love, and of his art.

- M.A.Orthofer, 14 April 2016

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Links:

A Terrace in Rome: Reviews: Other books by Pascal Quignard under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       French author Pascal Quignard was born 23 April 1948.

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© 2016 the complete review

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