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'The Explosion of the Radiator Hose' by Jean Rolin
Olivier Barrot tell us more about "The Explosion of the Radiator Hose" by Jean Rolin.
For me, there's no doubt - Jean Rolin stands in the front rank of contemporary French writers. A slim and tall figure reminiscent of a Giacometti sculpture, he was born in 1949 and has published some 20 novels and volumes of travel writing. Rolin's style and inspiration do not sound too French: they have some of the classic attributes, but intermingled with a black ironic humour, as well as a typical taste for the trivial.
An example is the title of his latest book to be translated into English, "The Explosion of the Radiator Hose". "When the radiator hose burst, the car had done exactly 99 400 metres, since its odometer was reset to zero. It was doing over 100 kilometres per hour, with the needle on the temperature gauge stuck firmly in the red. Earlier, Patrice had stopped on two separate occasions to lift the hood and examine the engine, concluding from his observations that he would be able to carry on driving at the same speed".
Is this a technical approach to a motoring breakdown? Not at all. This is one single moment in the odyssey of an old and battered stolen car and its occupants. Rolin's characters, including the narrator, are thieves who steal cars in Europe, taking them to Africa where they are given a new life as taxis. As you might expect, such a journey takes time, energy and shrewdness, since everything can and does happen along the way. Mind you, Rolin's stories might be read as realistic documentary tales, based upon pure facts. But they offer far more than that. A poet's view on Africa, its people, its recent history, its attraction and more terrifying downsides.
Rolin rides the Paris metro with an acute sensitivity, he is aware of the political and historical situation in Congo, and has read the best authors, Proust in particular, among many others. But as I said earlier, this book is pure fiction, the narrator revels in a playful make-believe attitude which culminates with his last words: "I should tell that story one day, the story of my heroic death, and the revolution that ensued". Do board that ship, at your own risk.
The Explosion of the Radiator Hose
Dalkey Archive Press