cover image Naming the Jungle

Naming the Jungle

Antoine Volodine. New Press, $18.95 (176pp) ISBN 978-1-56584-274-8

The American debut of a French writer is an intense, hallucinatory novel of a man's daring psychological ruse to protect himself from political brutality. Fabian Golpiez, a Jucapira Indian in a fictitious post-revolutionary South American country, is interrogated alternately by a psychiatrist and by local security forces as he tries to untangle a confession, or at least tell a story, from his feverish memory. Employing a strange ritual, the psychiatrist displays images on a slide projector that prompt Fabian to tell his tale. But the Indian feigns madness in order to conceal his past associations with both sides of the civil war--a one-night love affair with a guerrilla commando, and some time spent peripherally assisting an authoritarian judge in his inquisitions. Meanwhile, Fabian plans vaguely to escape into the jungle with an associate and with his lover, a nurse. The actual story has a sparseness that contrasts with the lush lexicon of Volodine's imagined jungle: e.g., ``surucating'' (making love), ``caranguejeira'' (a type of spider); ""jacare"" (alligators). While the author undercuts his rich style with a certain self-consciousness, and his narrative lacks a vital dynamic dimension, his talent surfaces time and again in luxurious, hypnotic ways. (Feb.)