Flight of Icarus, The

by Raymond Queneau


Occasionally amusing as a farce, for me the best thing this has going for it is that it’s an extremely quick read. As a caveat I readily admit that I’m probably not the intended audience — I realize more with every book that I don’t really have the patience for post-modern works (I believe that’s what genre this fits into). You know, works that are more about process and style than actual narrative. For just one more example I couldn’t stand Waiting for Godot, which is not to say I think it’s necessarily bad, just that I don’t get it, nor have I a desire to do so. I feel the same way about this one. Above all I need me some good S-T-O-R-Y. . . the rest is just fluff.

One author who treated this same subject — a character trying to break from its author — much more satisfactorily was Miguel de Unamuno in Niebla. This was also a modernist or post-modernist or whatever work about the construction of a novel, but it had some heft. It still didn’t fully work but it was easier for me to appreciate. Much like the best moment here when a fellow fugitive is talking about the difference between fictional characters and real people, and Icarus muses, “It may all come to the same thing. (Real people) may be the characters of some other sort of author.” THIS. This is what I really wanted more of in this book, yet there’s just that one fleeting (har har) moment.

To be clear, I wouldn’t say you’re wrong for liking this, and I can even recommend it to people who really like parody, word-play, and authors like Samuel Beckett or Italo Calvino. It’s not for me, though, and I think I’ll avoid the genre in the future. A good litmus test for whether you should read it could be the title itself, which refers not as much to the mythical Icarus’s winged flight as it does to the protagonist from a modern novel fleeing from his author’s book. If that pun amuses you, then you’ll enjoy this book. If you hear that and think, “Hmm, that’s sort of clever I guess, but you need more than a clever concept to sustain an engaging novel,” then I’d suggest you save your time; you’ll probably respond to it about as I did.

As an aside, if someone can gently let me know what I missed with respect to Godot, I’d really appreciate it.


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