A Reading & Writing Adventure

Before Christmas I saw a television programme about Marguerite Yourcenar, and I thought, wow! must read something by her. I got her most famous novel, "Memoirs of Hadrian" and I got through the first chapter. I will not blame the anachronisms, but I did get a little bit hung up on them. Mostly, it was intelligent, dense, deep, and... boring. Not my thing. It´s all me, I´m sure.

Instead, I picked this one up, and I can´t think what I was thinking at the library, can´t remember even grabbing it. I imagine it was the title. It´s "Hallucinating Foucault" by Patricia Duncker. I remember Foucault from school, I read a couple of his and enjoyed them much, he was more accessible I think than a lot of other philosophers. Or should I call him a social scientist? Wikipedia seems to do both.

Anyway, the novel is about a 22-year old guy who is in Cambridge working on a thesis about a novelist called Paul Michel (which happen to be Foucault´s first names), a writer who was very inspired by Foucault. The young protagonist starts a relationship with a slightly dominant Germanist (working on Schiller), who pushes him to go in search of Paul Michel, who has been locked up in an asylum since Foucault´s death in 1984. He is reluctant at first, he says he is more interested in the work than in the man, but he soon becomes obsessed with Michel. Or absorbed by him, perhaps. If I say anything more about the plot I will give too much away.

It´s a horror story, of sorts. There is a riddle in here, and not what you think. It´s also one of those coming of age stories, almost like an old-fashioned fairy tale about a young boy being sent on a mission by a fair princess, you know. And Michel is both the dragon of the dungeon and the maiden in the tower. And the Germanist is both princess and sage. There are plenty of meta in this book, and I bet most of it is over my head, but I get enough to feel a bit clever. And at heart, it´s a book about reading and writing, readers and writers, and how the two are related. I think it´s a book that would be perfect for a discussion group. Plenty of enigmatic metaphors and analogies, if you wish.

I loved this book, I have to say. She has had one more novel translated to Swedish and I think I must read it. Soon. Excellent.

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