cover image The Princess Hoppy, Or, the Tale of Labrador: Or, the Tale of Labrador

The Princess Hoppy, Or, the Tale of Labrador: Or, the Tale of Labrador

Jacques Roubaud. Dalkey Archive Press, $9.95 (132pp) ISBN 978-1-56478-032-4

Roubaud ( The Great Fire of London ) is a member of the Oulipo group of experimental writers whose best-known members include Raymond Queneau and Georges Perec. Like theirs, Roubaud's work is in the playful post-modernist vein. Unfortunately, in this novella, that playfulness is strained almost beyond endurance. This is a slight, almost plotless farce, compounded of romantic/chivalric cliches, math and logic problems and elements from children's literature. The title character is a sweet young princess whose four uncles, all kings, engage in endless and seemingly pointless conspiracies, governed by the incomprehensibly tangled ``rule of St. Benedict.'' Her most loyal retainer is a dog, who speaks in Dog. A lovesick astronomer from Baghdad makes a lengthy appearance. There is a profusion of polyglot punning, malapropisms and literary references that range from a dying king named Uther Pendragon to a hedgehog named Bartleby. The entire drearily unfunny jumble is narrated by ``the tale'' itself, a conceit as irritating as the relentlessly coy tone in which it is executed. Hoepffner's translation, however, is admirable in its efficiency, especially given the linguistic complexity of the material. (Sept.)