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From Dreams to Despair - JKL Scott

From Dreams to Despair is a painstaking discussion of possible themes running through Vian's writing. There is an enormous amount of scholarship in the work, and Scott does answer the question "What is Vian writing about?".

Essentially, Scott's reading is:

"...that Vian's novels form a coherent group, and that ultimately they come to a remorselessly pessimistic conclusion, that life has nothing to offer which will not be taken away. From the fantastic world of childhood imagination and delight the individual moves into a realm of conflict, violence and predation. (p283)"

Scott explains what it is about Vian that readers enjoy in his concluding chapter, on page 279

"... at his best, he is a superbly imaginative writer, capable of creating images which linger in the memory long after the book is finished. There can be no denying the power of moments such as the 'foire au vieux' or the stallion's crucifixion in L'Arrache-coeur, or Lazuli's battle with his phantom in L'Herbe Rouge. More than this, there is Vian's joy in the manipulation of language, playing with words to create a universe unique to itself, where electricity spills like mercury from cut cables, where buildings atrophy, and children can fly."

Scott himself is a genial chap given to droll self disparagements. In an email to me he wrote that his book would cure insomnia, and in his acknowledgments he ranks the liveliness of his style on a par with an elementary primer on "Mortars, limes and cements". However, he writes clearly and doesn't stray off topic, and his arguments, are fundamentally correct within the framework of his analysis.

Scott's love of Vian seem to have diminished somewhat since he first read L'Ecume des jours as a young man, but he still admires him enough to write:

"...Vian is one of the great iconoclasts, and more than that, one of the great comic iconoclasts; if anything could be said to sum up Vian, it is the final scene of L'Ecume des jours, which, significantly, is simultaneously comic and horrible."

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