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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

The Explosion
of the Radiator Hose


by
Jean Rolin


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

To purchase The Explosion of the Radiator Hose



Title: The Explosion of the Radiator Hose
Author: Jean Rolin
Genre: Novel
Written: 2007 (Eng. 2011)
Length: 162 pages
Original in: French
Availability: The Explosion of the Radiator Hose - US
The Explosion of the Radiator Hose - UK
The Explosion of the Radiator Hose - Canada
L'Explosion de la durite - Canada
The Explosion of the Radiator Hose - India
L'Explosion de la durite - France
  • (and other mishaps, on a journey from Paris to Kinshasa)
  • French title: L'Explosion de la durite
  • Translated by Louise Rogers Lalaurie

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Our Assessment:

B : appealing travelogue

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
L'Express . 8/2/2007 Marianne Payot
Prospect . 5/2011 Andrew Hussey
Publishers Weekly . 24/1/2011 .
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Fall/2008 Warren Motte
Télérama . 31/3/2007 Nathalie Crom
World Lit. Today . 1-2/2008 Warren Motte


  From the Reviews:
  • "Jean Rolin progresse par digressions, aussi à l'aise dans la description d'un pouillot égaré que dans celle du protocole du carré des officiers d'un navire de l'île de Man ou des inévitables courses à Champion. Que du bonheur !" - Marianne Payot, L'Express

  • "We are in the hands of a skilled psychogeographer whose mapping of the world is really a mapping of the self." - Andrew Hussey, Prospect

  • "Rolin's snaking, clause-ridden sentences exude an ornery precision, mixing prosaic observations with literary allusion, snide humor, political critique, and personal history. This is a fine, understated novelistic essay only slightly weakened by its hodgepodge structure." - Publishers Weekly

  • "This is a novel that positions itself as a sketch of a novel, a set of prolegomena gesturing toward a new kind of novel. That new novel hovers just over the horizon that Rolin adumbrates in L'Explosion de la durite, where we can anticipate it, perhaps, but not yet descry it. Indeed, Rolin may be pointing toward it, obliquely and ironically, as he brings his tale to a close." - Warren Motte, Review of Contemporary Fiction

  • "Ce qui naît de tout cela ? Un livre comme seul Rolin sait en écrire, mélancolique et voyageur, rêveur et précis, poétique et ironique, fantaisiste et profond." - Nathalie Crom, Télérama

  • "Rolin's prose style recalls that of Sebald in many ways. Like Sebald, Rolin is a master of sentence structure, honing his syntax with considerable elegance, allowing his sentences to reach beyond normative bounds in an effort to bring forth meaning more fully. He is not afraid to loiter here and there, taking his time to develop ideas he finds upon his way, as it were. Though the radiator hose explodes, there is no explosion of truth." - Warren Motte, 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:

       The Explosion of the Radiator Hose is a travelogue of sorts. Rolin begins his first-person account with said explosion -- though that occurs near the end of his trip -- and then circles back to the beginning, explaining how he wound up, in 2005, in central Africa, on the road to Kinshasa in a beat-up old Audi.
       Rolin transports the Audi to Kinshasa from Paris on behalf of a friend of his who wants to provide for his family: apparently there's good money to be made using a vehicle as a taxi in the Congo capital, and so that's the plan. Originally, it's another car that they mean to transport down, but then it's this Audi, used but in reasonable condition (except, of course, as it turns out the radiator hose). It is Rolin that is to accompany it the whole way -- and:

At every stage of the process, the most difficult thing was always to ensure that the car and I advanced in tandem, and this difficulty only increased as we drew nearer to our destination, when the need to keep a close eye on the vehicle was only matched by the equally pressing need not to be identified as its owner, or indeed connected with it in any way at all, thereby hopefully attracting no attention whatever to the bizarre circumstance of a white man traveling by cargo ship with a used car
       There's a bit of tension as to will he/won't he be able to keep up with the car as it is shipped to the Congo -- though since readers already know that the car breaks down on the very last stretch of road the question is only one of how complicated the hurdles prove to be, since he obviously did clear them all.
       The story moves along at a relatively leisurely pace: between moments of tension and concern -- can he keep an eye on the car ? how badly is it damaged in transit ? -- and a great deal of simply waiting around, whether on board one of the ships or waiting for the next stage of the trip.
       With a clear objective in mind, Rolin's narrative isn't entirely aimless -- and he's also a man of some routines. He takes Proust along for the trip, planning on re-reading that work (though also carefully dosing his reading, so as not to be left without anything to read at the end of his trip), and settles into other routines en route as well. Given the various unusual circumstances along the way -- he's on board a cargo ship, he's in an African port, he's in Kinshasa -- there is enough that is off-beat here to make even the otherwise relatively uneventful of some interest.
       An additional layer to the narrative comes from the fact that Rolin is no stranger to Kinshasa, having spent time there as a teen, when his father worked there, as well as having visited it again in the meantime, most recently in 1980. Rolin weaves in stories of the Congo's ugly past (and recent) history and politics; he also concludes the book with a cliffhanger of sorts, mentioning his father's reaction to receiving news that Jean was hospitalized in Paris, at the end of May 1968 and suggesting in closing: "I should tell that story one day".
       The Explosion of the Radiator Hose is not the most adventurous of travelogues, but Rolin's agreeable style and his understated accounts of past and present -- especially in reference to the brutal history of the country, and those involved in it -- make for a seductive and rather intriguing read.
       Rolin writes of reading the Congolese papers, and finding they were all:
so bombastic and confused that I was unable to tell whether they supported the authorities' point of view or criticized it; one explanation for this obfuscation -- in all fairness to the Congolese journalists -- being the need to give the censors the slip, behind an effective smokescreen.
       Rolin avoids bombast in his narrative, but there is a smokescreen-feel to much of it, as he carefully presents the material -- and doesn't probe too much into the past (and present) of those he deals with, unsure of what their roles once were, or now are, and preferring to leave it at that. As such, the rather simple narrative constantly hints at more, with Rolin only occasionally revealing it.
       An odd, enjoyable little traveler's tale, The Explosion of the Radiator Hose has the feel of being a part (or gloss) on a greater whole.

- M.A.Orthofer, 12 March 2011

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Links:

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About the Author:

       French author Jean Rolin was born in 1949.

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© 2011 the complete review

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