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This review is taken from PN Review 51, Volume 13 Number 1, September - October 1986.

EXPERIENCE OF AMERICA Raymond Federman, Smiles on Washington Square (Thunder's Mouth Press, New York) $13.95

For almost twenty years, the American experimental novel and the name Raymond Federman have been inseparable. The focus of his experiment from the publication of Double or Nothing (Swallow Press 1971) until the appearance in the USA and Britain of The Twofold Vibration (Indiana UP and Harvester) in 1982, lay in the belief that 'The experience of life gains meaning only in its recounted form, in its verbalized version' (Surfiction. Fiction Now and Tomorrow, ed. R. Federman, Swallow Press, 2nd ed. 1981). Federman's concern was with the evolution of fictional voices and variations in narrative structures which would be adequate to fictionalize his own experiences: the caesura in his Parisian childhood brought about by the Nazi invasion of France, the subsequent deportation of his parents and sisters to the death camps, his own virtually fortuitous escape followed by post-war emigration to America, work in the factories of Detroit, military service in Korea, and establishment as an American citizen. Yet, like the protagonist of his newest novel, for Federman 'the chaos of imagination always supersedes order and veracity of facts'.

The Twofold Vibration marked the culmination of Federman's exploration of the limits of innovation. Superficially less experimental than its immediate predecessor, The Voice in the Closet (Coda Press 1979), it projected Federman's self-observation into a retrospective view from the threshold of the twenty-first century. The central figure, an old man, is confined to the stasis of waiting for his own departure to the undefined space colonies; the narrational ...


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