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Claude Dourguin. Escales: New York, Dublin, Naples.

Seyssel, France. Champ Vallon. 2002. 223 pages. 15 [euro]. ISBN 2-87673-324-2

AUTHOR of Villes saintes [1987), La Lumiere des villes (1990), and fine books such as Recours: Patinir, Lorrain, Segers (1991) and Un reyaume au bord de la mer (1997), which offer sensitive and insightful contextualizations of the work of European artists of various periods, Claude Dourguin has in abundance all the gifts needed to evoke with subtlety and ease her escales--as the subtitle of her latest book indicates--in New York, Dublin, Naples.

Dourguin is a speaker of place, earth, sky, and sea, their sensual and emotive geometries, the pulse that is theirs, beating away in given cultural, human environments. Her nomadism is double: spatial, of course, but temporally alert, too, though such displacements unfold without alienation, for what dominates in her writing, her being-in-place-and-time, is empathy, adaptation, intersubjectivity, an instinctive capacity to give the self over to experience, to establish a brief "homeland," as she writes, in the midst of otherness. Such nonestrangement reveals, too, a sure sense of self's firmness and easefulness, an ability to inhabit the here and now as it "reinvigorates, dispenses its virtues," though we are to leave it soon. Indeed, this very provisionality of being-where-one-is seems to produce a paradoxical strengthening of bonds, an intensification of the experience of place and time, a disinclination to procrastinate.

The traversal of la vie immediate--an allusion to Eluard, of course, and, although Claude Dourguin's perspective and manner are hardly surrealist, and perhaps Jacques Reda or even Yves Leclair are nearer in certain quite indirect ways, one cannot help thinking of Aragon's Paysan de Paris or Fargue's Pieton de Paris--requires a reciprocal availability (in effect dear to the surrealists), that of world and self, that can allow these freely meditated and fluid diaries to develop their graceful though unpretentious articulation of the detail and depth of the observed. Factuality and contemplation, simplicity beyond any complex, nuance without effeteness, Escales gives us three finely shifting mosaics crafted by a keen eye and a warm intelligence.

Michael Bishop

Dalhousie University
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Author:Bishop, Michael
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 2003
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