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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Pigeon Post

Dumitru Tsepeneag

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To purchase Pigeon Post

Title: Pigeon Post
Author: Dumitru Tsepeneag
Genre: Novel
Written: 1989 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 159 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Pigeon Post - US
Pigeon Post - UK
Pigeon Post - Canada
Pigeon vole - Canada
Pigeon vole - France
  • French title: Pigeon vole
  • Originally published under the pseudonym 'Ed Pastenague'
  • Translated by Jane Kuntz

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Our Assessment:

B : another novel about writing a novel ... but has its moments

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
TLS . 14/8/2009 James Womack

  From the Reviews:
  • "Pigeon Post, an accomplished and delirious comic novel, is in many ways the opposite of Vain Art of the Fugue. Whereas the earlier work is inward-looking, trying to give a public form to seemingly hermetic internal material, Pigeon Post is expansive and suggestive." - James Womack, Times Literary Supplement

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 narrator of Pigeon Post writes of trying to write a book. He doesn't have anything to fully formed in his mind, so he's just barreling ahead:

     How to process all this raw material, how to rid the pure ore of its slag ? Until I come up with a method for purging, or grinding, if not, fusing, I'm transcribing even this expression, this formulation that I've found in the margin of the very earliest draft (itself recovered and re-written almost in its entirety): didactic project.
       Indeed. But the novel the reader holds in his or her hands is fairly slim -- trim, if not trimmed -- so there's not too much need to fear that all the slag still hangs to the text.
       He does have certain ideas about what he wishes to fashion and present:
     This text mustn't look too much like a diary. A building site, perhaps, but ...
       He makes a case for fragmentary writing -- but there's a sense of desperation, too, as if he can't do otherwise, or better. He is looking for a certain order, too, acknowledging:
     Randomness as a catalyst, fine ! But as an effect, no ! That's my motto ...
       The writer has three friends whom he tries to draw into his project, soliciting their advice and help. The questions he initially puts to Edmund, Edgar, and Edward address what become some of the major and minor themes and subjects of the novel, from chess to carrier pigeons. He concludes his questionnaire with a "trick question":
If I were writing a novel, what, in your view, would be the subject, the title and the narrative structure ?
       Not surprisingly, the text has self-referential turns galore, as, for example, Edward critiques it -- "though it does have a certain charm, overall it's underwhelming" -- and points out the author's "annoying tendency" to "reduce my characters' lives to anecdotes".
       It is a choppy narrative, uncertain in direction even as there are a variety of threads running strongly through it, including the pigeons and, for example, the game of chess, culminating in a lengthier description of a sort of chess competition. There's constant uncertainty, even on the narrator's part, of where this all might be leading -- indeed, he worries about finishing the book, too, -- but over the course of it it still offers a fair amount.
       A single anecdotal passage from the middle of the book sums it -- and the narrator, and his undertaking -- all up exactly right:
     A one-inch cockroach emerges from the typewriter, the carriage to be exact, creeps down into the ream of blank paper set to one side, takes a detour around the yellow wooden pencil, as if that were the final obstacle, and comes to a halt at the edge of my desk. I'm motionless as well. I'm waiting for it to make a decision.
       Pigeon Post is a multi-layered narrative whose cleverness can certainly be appreciated, and which does offer fair reward for the effort. But even if it is a novel variation, it's a game that has been played a lot before.

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Pigeon Post: Reviews: Other books by Dumitru Tsepeneag under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Romanian author Dumitru Tsepeneag (Țepeneag) was born in 1937. He emigrated to France in 1971, and now divides his time between Paris and Bucharest.

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