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The Roving Shadows by Pascal Quignard


There are few in the international literary world that quite compare to the lyricism and writings of the author, poet, musician and artist that is Pascal Quignard. In possibly his most ambitious work, The Roving Shadows is the first of a series by Quignard (titled the Kingdom Series) that earned him a place in the annals of history by being the first non-novel to achieve the crown at the Goncourt Prize, France's most prestigious literary award.


In a testament to the narratives of folklore in both Western and Eastern culture, art, travel, death and sex, Quignard presents a smorgasboard of ideas that are pertinent to our daily lives, yet whimsical enough to maintain a piqued interest throughout.


Oftentimes the translated copy of a seminal text, such as this, lacks the vibrancy and imagery of the original. Yet, Chris Turner seems to do just that. Drawing on very limited vocabulary in French, there is definitely a strong correlation between the French and the English writing. A feat that is both remarkable, and to be celebrated in its own right.


Quignard has a visionary take on elements of the meditative qualities of reading. Flitting seamlessly between a range of genre, one never quite keeps up with the mind of Quignard, nor will you find yourself wanting to. The joy truly is in the ride that the author takes you on. The weaving and dodging between narratives, taking on challenging concepts one moment, then humorously commenting on the mundane elements of life the next. It’s difficult to categorise it to any one focus (and it would take a fool to even try to).


“One cannot offer a visible counterweight to the universal domination of light without it contributing itself to light’s reign.

One cannot set a containing wall or a dyke against it without its expansive power immediately breaching them.

That ocean knows no shores.

Everything is immersed in it.

Fish that still rise to the surface. A gulp to stave off death.

That gulp: reading.”


Above all, it is the cohesion that he is able to bring to the seemingly incoherent selection chosen for the writing. The avant-garde style permeates throughout, but is not cumbersome. It is rare that a book of such depth and wisdom is able to produce this with such a vast array of styles and content.


Reviewer: Chris Reed

New South