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Robert Pinget: Graal filibuste

I have not translated the title as it is pretty well untranslatable and may well be one of the reason that this book has not been translated into English. Graal filibuste is the god of the legendary kingdom of this book. Graal is, of course, the old French name of the Holy Grail, while filibuste may be related to filibustero, the Spanish for buccaneer. (The monarch of this kingdom, Sidi, formerly Coco, was captured by pirates before becoming king of the country, after a series of long, complicated and not always honourable adventures.) The story is seemingly a fairly traditional account of a legendary country – its religion, wildlife and plants, its political and economic structure and so on – but it soon becomes clear that Pinget is parodying the traditional nineteenth century accounts of exotic lands. The obvious fauna turn out to be strange hybrids. For example, there are pavots-chiens which translates as poppy-dogs and which are dangerous plants which attack humans and bark when they smell flesh. The genealogy of Graal filibuste consists of nonsense sounds. In short, Pinget, as is the case with his fellow nouveaux romanciers, is playing games with the limits of language. Irrelevant stories, non-sequiturs and characters who are both mythical and mundane (Tyrpo, god of unhappy love affairs, hangs out in small cafés) all add to the alienation and deconstruction of the traditional travel narrative that we are used to and that Pinget and his fellows seek to mock and cut down. It’s actually a lot more fun than some of the other nouveaux romans but I am not sure that it would work in English.

Publishing history

First published 1956 by Editions de Minuit
No English translation