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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

Dump This Book
While You Still Can !


by
Marcel Bénabou


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

To purchase Dump This Book While You Still Can !



Title: Dump This Book While You Still Can !
Author: Marcel Bénabou
Genre: Novel
Written: 1992 (Eng. 2001)
Length: 189 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Dump This Book While You Still Can ! - US
Dump This Book While You Still Can ! - UK
Dump This Book While You Still Can ! - Canada
Jette ce livre avant qu'il soit trop tard - Canada
Dump This Book While You Still Can ! - India
Jette ce livre avant qu'il soit trop tard - France
  • French title: Jette ce livre avant qu'il soit trop tard
  • Translated by Steven Rendall
  • With an Introduction by Warren Motte

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Our Assessment:

B : fairly entertaining literary game

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction A+ Spring/2002 Chad W. Post

  From the Reviews:
  • "Reminiscent of If on a winter's night a traveler, Bénabou's novel is extremely compelling, even though it constantly forces its readers to question their motives for reading. Steven Rendall's translation is superb, and Warren Motte's introduction is an enlightening look at one of France's top writers." - Chad W. Post, Review of Contemporary Fiction

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:

       Dump This Book While You Still Can ! is a clever, catchy title. Implicit in the title-admonition is the warning that there will come a point when you will no longer be able to dispose of the text, that there is something so captivating about the book that, before you know it, it will have you completely in its clutches. It's a high bar to set for a book -- and one wonders whether most bookstore shoppers don't take the title too literally.
       The book itself is also quite clever, as one might expect from Oulipo-member Bénabou. It is written in the first person, and focusses largely on the difficulties the narrator has with a text -- a book that begins with the admonition to "dump this book" before it is too late. Dump This Book While You Still Can ! is both a paean to the act of reading, and an acknowledgement of the inherent frustrations of the act.
       The book the narrator is trying to read is a confounding text. A few sections are reproduced, but by and large the narrator merely describes what he encounters as he tries to make his way through it. It offers, as the best of books do, everything -- including a variety of Oulipian devices (S+7 and many others -- the Oulipo Compendium (see our review) makes a welcome companion volume to the novel). It engages and warns the reader: "like me, you may get lost in it" the voice from within the book says -- but, for the narrator, this is as much a temptation as a caution.
       Dump This Book While You Still Can ! is presented in symphonic form: Overture, four movements, and Coda. Bénabou offers a wild literary ride on the way. The book is full of allusions, overt and subtle. A Flaubert and Balzac-like figure (conflated into Flauzac) figures prominently. In the narrator's dreams even letters come alive, and he finds himself becoming one "among the others" (unfortunately he does not say which one). Throughout, books (especially the one he is trying to read) seem literally alive.
       The narrator does not have an easy time of it: "The text, in its stubbornness, rejected my approaches, and I found this resistance taunting." There is a love interest in the book -- Sophie -- but the narrator's true obsession is the text. Bénabou offers ingenious variations on the reading-theme: it is a fairly single-minded literary text, but done with a great deal of humour and cleverness.
       Steven Rendall's translation seems to capture much of the playful character of the original. Many of the word-games and some of the allusions are, inevitably, lost -- beginning, as Rendall notes, with the first word of the French title (jette (throw away), which "is read homonymically as je tais (I leave unsaid)"). Some of his choices are perhaps questionable -- changing the name of a character from 'Simon' to Sigmund' "in order to make the allusion to Freud clearer" -- but the playful, clever character of the text does come across quite well.

       More than anything, Dump This Book While You Still Can ! evinces a belief in the power of literature. It does so remarkably well, and often very entertainingly. Dump This Book While You Still Can ! is a fun tug-of-war between text, reader, and author.

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Links:

Dump This Book While You Still Can !: Reviews: Marcel Bénabou: OuLiPo: Other books by Marcel Benabou under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Oulipo books at the complete review
  • See Index of French literature

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About the Author:

       Marcel Bénabou is a member of the OuLiPo and has written several books.

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© 2002-2012 the complete review

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