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This review is taken from PN Review 84, Volume 18 Number 4, March - April 1992.

THE RUB OF THE GREEN Edouard Dujardin, The Bays are Sere and Interior Monologue, introduced and translated by Anthony Suter (Libris) £17.95

In an essay of 1960 for the London Magazine the novelist Rayner Heppenstall described Les lauriers sont coupés - the only work of Dujardin's to have survived him - as an 'unpretentious little book', a phrase which (out of context) damns with faint praise even as it attempts to be measured and tempered. As this new translation demonstrates, adopting Heppenstall's suggested translation of the title as it does so, an 'unpretentious little book' puts the matter as fairly and squarely as one could wish. But everyone with more than a passing interest in Joyce will know that Les lauriers has only maintained its precarious claim on posterity by virtue of its influence - if influence is what it was - on a big book with quite justified pretensions to greatness: Ulysses. In a typically idiosyncratic (though by no means merely flippant) gesture, conscious perhaps that this old chestnut was already in danger of provoking indigestion, Heppenstall took the line that the most immediate effect of Les lauriers on Joyce was 'to show him what he needed to do in order to turn Stephen Hero into A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man'. As recently as 1989, and in something of the same spirit, the scholar R.B. Kershner has re-animated the issue by suggesting that, in the transformaton of Stephen Hero, Joyce was actually also, and perhaps primarily, indebted to another novel of Dujardin's, L 'initiation au péché et à l'amour (1898), and to a prose poem-cum-narrative A ...


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