Tuesday, 11 April 2017

all dogs are blue [rodrigo de souza leāo]

The notes at the close of the novel, written by Blue Dog’s original publisher, reveal a great deal. The author Souza Leāo suffered from schizophrenia, and was frequently in hospital. All dogs Are Blue belongs to the pantheon of literature which lurks on the edge of society, a voice from the other side, as Foucault might have said. The book details the life and times of an inmate of a psychiatric ward, who is accompanied by his blue dog as well as a whole host of other friends, some of them imaginary, some of them fellow patients. Two of these are called Rimbaud and Baudelaire. The narrator lives in Rio, coming from a seemingly middle-class family. His poeticised prose refers to the hybrid nature of his nation’s history: European, African and Indigenous. A mixture which feels, in his voice, unstable, on the point of explosion. At the same time, it’s a carnival of language, (perhaps reminiscent of Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World), a delirious roller-coaster of words. There’s no plot to speak of, just a mosaic of unhappy magic. Like poetry, this is a novel which no doubt rewards repeated reading. The translation, by Deborah Levy, is effective. We go into the narrator’s mind and dance with him for a while. He might be from Rio, but he could be from Shanghai, Essex or Moscow. There’s a universality to ‘madness’, a culture which unites above and beyond geography.  

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