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"What follows is an interval of odorless dreams moving like pages that will not stay turned," reads a passage in Rosaire Appel's second novel, transiT, and this dual state of flux and paralysis describes not only consciousness as experienced by the figures in this book, but, by design, the reader.

In a remote, tropical city, smoke from burning tires competes with raging heat to scramble the minds of the occupants. Authority is corrupt, the clinic doles out sinister injections, revolution is possible but might be too much effort. A slow internal burn wastes those who frequent the cafe, wait for trains that never arrive, or clash with words. Survival is psychological: "Some sprinkle cool water on their wrists for relief - others say something nasty about others."

Perhaps in this climate it is especially easy to succumb to hallucinations that make past or future events more real than the present. Imagination takes hold when there are too many spare hours, too few in the cast of one's life for relief from "dormant passion[s]." Obsession and dementia rule. "Curing some internal discrepancy," a cafe patron compulsively sifts sand onto the floor; a man believes he is in conversation with a woman, then "even as he holds this course, he begins to drift back, this version dissolves, another slips into its place." A book of advice for colonists is read out loud hypnotically, desperately. Steeped in suspicion and narrowness, it provides little consolation. Is there hope?

"We drink and talk about patience and illness - to ward off silence, to prove we agree." Telling provides some comfort, but the same events keep happening - the "experienced" is as subjective as the recounted. Elements reappear but outcomes change, time is random. "He ... wants to say something conclusive, the cold-metal solace of a closed circle," one character observes. We, too, urgently seek to puzzle something together out of the fragments of being. By making a place for befuddlement and illusion, Appel draws us into the dreadful heart of a provocative world.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Review of Contemporary Fiction
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Sheehan, Aurelie Jane
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1993
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