New Orleans, Mon Amour

The Posthuman Dada Guide: Tzara and Lenin Play Chess

Andrei Codrescu, Introduction by . Princeton Univ. $16.95 (280p) ISBN 978-0-691-13778-0

This Zagat-sized handbook, a Dadaist chop suey showcasing the astonishing intellectual range of English professor and NPR commentator Codrescu (New Orleans, Mon Amour ), is arranged alphabetically and topically, which permits one to dip in or to read it all. The occasionally outrageous encyclopedic juxtapositions of entries give a firsthand experience similar to the effect of Dada cutups and collages. The human and so-called posthuman are concepts best understood via Codrescu's imagined 1916 game of chess in Zurich between Tristan Tzara, the founder of Dada (the art of the absurd), and Vladimir Ilych Lenin, avatar of the anti-Dada ethos of communism. Exactly how this fictitious game, played on the metaphoric chessboard of history—with the author rooting for Tzara —informs the rest of this book is murky. Yet, wending and blending their way through it all are dozens of people and subjects, among them Ben Franklin (who, like Lenin, bristles at the royalist aspects of chess) and a “Belgian eccentric” named Paul Otlet (who more or less envisioned the World Wide Web in the 1930s) and much else, japing and serious. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/02/2009
Release date: 00/00/0000
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