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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Arriving in Avignon

Daniël Robberechts

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To purchase Arriving in Avignon

Title: Arriving in Avignon
Author: Daniël Robberechts
Genre: Record
Written: 1970 (Eng. 2010)
Length: 140 pages
Original in: Flemish
Availability: Arriving in Avignon - US
Arriving in Avignon - UK
Arriving in Avignon - Canada
Arriving in Avignon - India
  • A Record
  • Dutch title: Aankomen in Avignon
  • Translated by Paul Vincent
  • With a Publisher's Note and an Editor's Note

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Our Assessment:

B : interesting personal/city profile

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 16/8/2010 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "The book succeeds because Robberechtsís intellectual curiosity dovetails beautifully with that of an avid, preferably Francophile, reader." - Publishers Weekly

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:

       Robberechts presents Arriving in Avignon as A Record rather than a work of fiction (or memoir), and it is a personal reflection on the French city -- or rather, it uses the city for personal reflection. The city of Avignon is one that he has repeatedly returned to and passed through, physically and also in his thoughts, and:

one can justly claim that his life is to some extent, in a certain sense, perhaps unsatisfactorily, but nonetheless irrevocably, intertwined with Avignon.
       The connection is a construct -- Avignon is hardly at the center of his life, just a place that is repeatedly revisited and where he has had some experiences (memorable and not) -- but one that Robberechts finds useful in addressing aspects of his own life, especially the path to some sort of maturity. He's harsh about the youth he once was -- "a solitary, vague individual" hardly worth wasting words on, but Avignon, that frequent(ed) cross-road, and its experiences allow him to chronicle and address his halting efforts at coming of age and coming into his own.
       This approach is also about: "laying siege, and storming or negotiating" -- though he worries
This is how a common variety of literature works, condensing a campaign into a single battle, boiling down all the gestures and actions of courtship into a single, orgiastic advent; it looks for what we want to see in reality, unthinkingly transcribing the myth evoked to us by reality -- not what is offered to us, modestly, even fundamentally, in that reality.
       This tension of how to deal with events -- how to record or remember or transmit them -- is present throughout the narrative. Whether a list of "the books in his library that he use in compiling his chronology" -- in an effort at presenting pure 'facts' -- or a careful verbal mapping of the city: "One can write: Events demand to be recorded, objects specified, phenomena revealed" Robberechts does so in describing his many encounters with and visits to Avignon. He also relies on outside facts -- place-names, history, books --, and extensive quotes (in a variety of languages), as if that could firm up the foundations.
       This contrasts, however, with the elusiveness of both personal memory and perception, as even where he does have strong memories, he often finds they are lacking in precision, specifically (but hardly solely) about the city. Then and now, the city remains, to varying degrees, inchoate.
       Early on he wonders (parenthetically):
     Where is this report heading ? Shouldn't Avignon be more than a pretext for a concatenation of more or less relevant anecdotes ? But can an object be grasped by us other than in a slimy mass of events, experiences, memories ? The thing is to learn how to approach a reality, any reality.
       Arriving in Avignon is, in a sense, such an exercise -- and not just a coming to terms with past and self, but also a writerly exercise of how to go about it. (Robberechtsís Praag schrijven 'Writing Prague' -- about a city he never physically visited -- sounds like a fascinating continuation of this approach.)
       A vivid account of a man's struggle and frustration with himself (specifically his younger self), and with writing, Arriving in Avignon is an often eloquent and interesting record.

- M.A.Orthofer, 25 February 2011

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Arriving in Avignon: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Flemish author Daniël Robberechts was born in 1937 and committed suicide in 1992.

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© 2011-2012 the complete review

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