In this nominally true story of an epic, transcontinental road trip, Jean Rolin travels to Africa from darkest France, accompanying a battered Audi to its new life as a taxi to be operated by the family of a Congolese security guard. The ghost of Joseph Conrad haunts Rolin’s journey, as do memories of his expatriate youth in Kinshasa in the early 1960s—but no less presentIn this nominally true story of an epic, transcontinental road trip, Jean Rolin travels to Africa from darkest France, accompanying a battered Audi to its new life as a taxi to be operated by the family of a Congolese security guard. The ghost of Joseph Conrad haunts Rolin’s journey, as do memories of his expatriate youth in Kinshasa in the early 1960s—but no less present are W. G. Sebald and Marcel Proust, who are the guiding lights for Rolin’s sensual and digressive attack upon history: his own as well as the world’s. By turns comic, lyrical, gruesome, and humane, The Explosion of the Radiator Hose is a one-of-a-kind travelogue, and no less an exploration of what it means to be human in a life of perpetual exile and migration....
|Title||:||The Explosion of the Radiator Hose|
|Number of Pages||:||168 Pages|
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The Explosion of the Radiator Hose Reviews
Look at it as a kind of 21st century rewrite of Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness. Jean Rolin writes of his journey to the Congo interior, but with a used Audi being imported from Europe to be used as a taxi in the lucrative Kinshasa market. But as the book's title, The Explosion of the Radiator Hose, hints, it was not an easy task. In Congo, everybody's hand is out and obtrusive officialdom is rife:I spent whole days in Kurt's office -- he busying himself with innumerable tasks (for the most part consisting of nothing but the patient removal of obstacles surreptitiously put in place by authorities or some other agent, in order to levy unwarranted taxes on the flow of goods and merchansise), me sitting sideways on a chair, sometimes silent but more often ready to chat, watching the endless procession of petitioners, lawyers, intermediaries, clients, or company employees staggering under bulging files full of papers needing to be stamped and signed.The book purports to be a novel, but is more real than most nonfiction I have read. Whether it is fiction or not, it can be read as nonfiction. Then again, it occasionally trails into riffs that are decidedly fictional. No matter. Rolin's book is vastly enjoyable.
Taken in by the garish cover and references to the author's gonzo journalism (undeserved, it turns out), I was surprised to find the narrator (we have to remind ourselves that this is putatively a fiction) spending great swathes of this book attempting not to be bored, usually reading his dear Proust, but not so fast that he would finish "Remembrance of Things Past" before the end of his voyage on a cargo ship to Africa. In fact very few incidents in this trip from Paris to Kinshasa exceed the excitement of having a radiator hose burst. That said, I loved this book. In technique, Rolin's writing reminds me of Jean-Philippe Toussaint's, a dead-pan humor about nearly nothing. But this is merely a way of distancing the reader psychically from the rather horrific history of the Congo, which in a way this book is a voyage into. Even in the sections where the rather byzantine series of coups, rebellions, alliances, intrigues are bruited, the coolly dispassionate attention to detail defuses the reader's indignation, so that it merely simmers for the duration.Translators: more, please!
Although it’s billed as an “epic transcontinental road trip,” that description doesn’t really fit Jean Rolin’s The Explosion of the Radiator Hose, making its first appearance in English this spring for Dalkey Archive. More an unconventional record of one man’s questionably truthful journey by ship from Paris, France to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it’s only nominal kin to transcontinental African travelogues like Paul Theroux’s Dark Star Safari or Julian Smith’s recent Crossing the Heart of Africa. Drawing on history, his experience in delivering a gently-used Audi to the family of a Congolese ex-pat for usage as a taxi on the streets of Kinshasa and his life as a young émigré there in the 1960s, Rolin doesn’t pontificate his way through the locales he visits nor paint dismal pictures of them like Theroux. In a way, that’s part of the book’s strength, allowing him to inject considerable humor and levity into it and freeing him from becoming bogged down in the vastness of the very undertaking he writes about. Moreover, Rolin’s journey is more whimsical, or at least styled less self-seriously, than others similar to it, and as a result it’s a breathless and brief affair (only about 150 pages) decorated with wit, detail and elegant sentences.Of course, in keeping with the tradition of most African travel lit written by Euro-Americans, the typical literary touchstone – Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness – figures somewhat prominently in Explosion, perhaps to its detriment. But while Conrad’s novella, written in 1902 and about as outdated and subtly racist as anything else more than a hundred years old is bound to be, has an obvious influence on Rolin (he probably mentions it every 10 pages or so), he doesn’t allow it to confine him or to define his adventure. In reality, it’s probably Proust who is a better foil to compare his deep and meandering prose with, which is probably the highest compliment any French man of letters hopes to receive.The rich flavors of detail aside, though, for a story about “Africa,” that diverse and sprawling collection of 54 countries, more than just detail is necessary. Perhaps because Rolin doesn’t see much of the continent proper, Explosion, which lacks the pitying descriptions and judgments of locals that color most other accounts of African travel, lacks even many Africans – only Nsele and Patrice, his in-country guides, and a few streetwalkers figure at all prominently in the story. And, unlike in other travelogues, Explosion seems less about peeking into the lives of others and more about the narrator himself and the sense of danger he feels while pursuing the goal that brought him to the DRC. The incidental enlightenment that occurs and that is provided by learning of others’ lives is the backbone of travel literature, and it’s in this respect that Explosion fizzles. The narrative constantly falls back on its shifty French center rather than elevating its milieu into what all great travel lit aspires to be: a living biography of a place and its people. While Rolin is never as gratingly self-centered as Theroux in Dark Star Safari eventually becomes, The Explosion of the Radiator Hose is still, at its heart, a story about Africa written by a non-African, and one who freely admits in the text, “I envisage the present or evoke the past as a series of more or less embroidered stories designed to present myself in a favorable light.” With credentials such as those, it’s little surprise that we learn more about Rolin – and, to a lesser degree, the Congolese streetwalkers he purportedly turns down – than about the “heart of darkness” itself, that vast, bright and un-monolithic continent which continues to evade the pens of even the most discerning of writers.Rating: 3.4/5.0http://spectrumculture.com/2011/06/th...
Fascinating story of transporting a car from France to the DRC.
Easy to read and easy to follow, this book provides on its 200 pages quite an interesting insight into contemporary Congo, its recent history and relation with France.A good read for someone who, like me, knows nothing about this part of the world and wants to change it.
Pfffffffffff!!! Même pas bon dans l`anecdote
Absurde mais de manière exquise.