Review of The Opposing Shore by Julien Gracq
While the descriptive passages are gorgeous, I tired of the narrative and the narrator about 2/3 of the way through.
My reading was hindered by some inconsistencies in the prose, which tended to ebb and flow, ranging from excellent evocation of dense imageries, conjured with immaculate confidence, to forced, teetering, cobbled-together dialogue sections between characters acting like wooden dummies.
I was compelled by the enigmatic atmosphere to keep going, and am willing to sample and read the author’s other productions at some point. I liked the writing style enough not to seek much else by way of pleasure from the text. I feel quite leisurely about this interest and may put off further peeks into his oeuvre. I’ve noticed that this book causes me to want to be extra specific about the sentences I’m using to describe it, possibly because the sensation of reading it instills in you a need to rely on too many long sentences, such that you begin to sound like you are not stating things in the most succinct way. But this sheer lack of concision contributes to the eerie mystique of the book. Maybe. The author prolonged the interior exploration of his fictional world through the use of dreamlike articulations, visions, and floods of figurative language. Antunes accomplishes much of the same thing, but manages to command more force with his characters and plot, whereas Gracq relies solely on aura and setting to house his indulgent detail.
There was less commitment to the warring city-states than I expected. Less commitment to the love interest than I anticipated. Less going on, fewer meaningful interactions amid a lot of aloof observation, contemplation and dwelling on the inner feelings aroused by a pleasing landscape, so difficult to encapsulate and yet, it remains fairly memorable. An uncategorizable, melancholy book too caught up in its technicolored backdrop to plumb past the two-dimensional. But what it manages to grasp, outside of its vessel-like characters, is a profound awareness of our ability to perceive the complexity of constituent descriptions.
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