The Trolley by Claude Simon

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Synopsis

The Nobel Prize winner's exquisite new novel—his first in over a decade. At the age of 88, Claude Simon, a Nobel Prize-winning author and a cultural icon in France, has written a Proustian novel, intermingling the memories of youth and of old age. His madeleine is the trolley of the book's title, the transport that took him to and from his school every morning of his childhood. Describing it in exquisite detail, the opening pages are among the marvels of modern French prose. We are magically drawn into Simon's childhood with its promises and dangers. As the book progresses, we move from childhood into old age and our narrator is now on a different form of transport, a mobile hospital bed, beginning a different voyage into old age. The combination of the two creates a splendid fugue, one that has been highly praised by all the French critics and made the book into an immediate bestseller in France.
 

About Claude Simon

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Claude Simon was born on October 10,1913 in Antananarivo, Madagascar. He is a French novelist who is often identified with the nouveau roman movement exemplified in the works of Alain Robbe-Grillet and Michel Butor. His fragmented narratives certainly contain some of the formal disruption characteristic of that movement especially Triptyque from 1973. However he retains a strong sense of narrative and character. In fact, Simon has much more in common with his Modernist predecessors than with his contemporaries; in particular, the works of Marcel Proust and William Faulkner are a clear influence. Claude Simon creates a universe dominated by fatality and pervaded with doom. His heroes are outsiders like Meursault and testify to Simon's leaning toward the philosophy of the absurd. Simon makes great use of the interior monologue and consciously maintains a single point of view in his novels. In The Flanders Road (1960), three French POWs in a German camp pass the time by recalling and analyzing incidents, trivial and otherwise, in great detail. The reader receives their memories in a quasi--stream-of-consciousness hodge-podge of confusing scenes and syntax. Of The Palace (1962), Henri Peyre wrote: "Nothing happens in this novel, made up of shadowy dialogues and Proustian reminiscences. . . . The chief concern of the novelist, who no longer relates a story or presents images of real people, is to devise a language which may be true to his purely subjective vision." Claude Simon was the 1985 Nobel Laureate in Literature. He died in Paris France in July 2005. Richard Howard was born in Cleveland, Ohio on October 13, 1929. He received a B.A. from Columbia University in 1951 and studied at the Sorbonne as a Fellow of the French Government in 1952-1953. He briefly worked as a lexicographer, but soon turned his attention to poetry and poetic criticism. His works include Trappings: New Poems; Like Most Revelations: New Poems; Selected Poems; No Traveler; Findings; Alone with America; and Quantities. He won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1969 for Untitled Subjects. He is also a translator and published more than 150 translations from the French. He received the PEN Translation Prize in 1976 for his translation of E. M. Cioran's A Short History of Decay and the American Book Award for his 1983 translation of Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal. In 1982, he was named a Chevalier of L'Ordre National du Mérite by the government of France. He teaches in the Writing Division of the School of the Arts, Columbia University.
 
Published July 1, 2002 by New Press. 109 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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The logic of imagery then creates transitions to the beginning and ending points of the trolley line (a “garish” movie house and a popular “society beach”), thence to the narrator’s recent ordeal as an elderly man in a hospital ward, required to share space with a moribund, scarlet-pajama–clad ro...

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Publishers Weekly

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This book, beautifully translated by Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Richard Howard (who has also translated seven of Simon's previous novels), finds the author working from a palette of words, images and memories to create a unique, vivid world echoing the works of Proust.

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