The Voice in the Closet by Raymond Federman

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 § 0

The Unpunctuated Prose of The Voice in the Closet: The Auto(bio)graphical Mini-Narrative 
Followed by Echos

A Book Review by 
David Detrich

The Voice in the Closet (1979) by Raymond Federman was originally published in a double book with Echos by the French novelist Maurice Roche, an innovative novelist who published in the Tel Quel series in Paris. The Voice in the Closet is written in unpunctuated prose with an informal style of narration that continues the dramatic storytelling tradition of Samuel Beckett, and as the narrator considers the act of telling the real story, the existential dilemma of the narrator writing at the typewriter he calls the "selectricstud" becomes apparent. 

in my own voice at last a beginning after so many detours relentless false justifications in the margins more to come in my own words now that I may speak say I the real story
                                                           The Voice in the Closet
                                                           Raymond Federman

The typewriter is an erotic object envisioned as a fetish, where the autobiographical story of the narrator's youth is being written. The plot line consists of the mircronarrative of a young boy put in a closet in Paris, while the Nazis may be taking his family away. This recurrent thought is what disturbs the narrator of the short avant garde text, and creates the desire to express an event which is the origin of his narrative strategy. The inter(text)uality of The Voice in the Closet is conveyed with the foresight to write in a painterly style, to fill the blank spaces with color, to fulfill the dream of envisioning the blank spaces of a parallel text.

I dare say he toys with my fears makes of me a puppet-child whose strings are entangled rather than letting me be free and spontaneous to run under the grey canvas sky in search of my present-future
                                                           The Voice in the Closet
                                                           Raymond Federman

The "he" in the text is someone who is prompting him to write, while a typographiphobia is the fear of typography, and the Raymond Federman scholar will realize that the identity of the narrator is driven by "he": Samuel Beckett, another identity similar to Raymond Federman, another novelist writing in squares, and a novelist who digresses. The spontaneity of the writing is an awareness of the incoming requests to write a story, to make his interconnections with the relevant audience, and his fellow writers.

This book is a collaboration with the French novelist Maurice Roche, known for the novel Compact (1966), which was translated into English by Mark Polizzotti in 1988. The text Echos is written in a long sentence without spaces between the letters, forming a giant word structure which mirrors the opposite page. The idea of a long word is found in Finnegans Wake (1939), called a "thunder word," and there are ten thunderwords in Finnegans Wake.

                                                           Finnegans Wake
                                                           James Joyce

Maurice Roche has developed the concept of the thunder word in Echos, and the mirrored effect of the writing has produced a book that is itself a work of art, with the double avant garde text creating a work that can be read forward, or upside down. The Surrealists had experimented with innnovative design in the Editions Surrealistes series, and there are examples of double books, triple books, or multiple books that can be found in the book arts. 

M.R.: In my novel each element of the discourse has its own typography and thereby shows the manner in which it should be read. After all, a book is read with the eyes. But it could also be read aloud.
                                                            An Interview with
                                                            Maurice Roche
                                                            David Hayman

Maurice Roche has done some of the most interesting novelistic design of the 20th Century in his novels: Compact (1966), Circus (1972), CodeX (1974), and those that followed. Each page has an original design with the classic French lettering style of typography that enhances the esthetic appreciation of the novel.
The new edition of The Voice in the Closet (2001) by Starcherone Press is a small book, with a preface by Gerard Bucher called To Invent you Federman, which interprets the youthful adventures of the narrator as child/author, with the recurrent scene of a young man put in a closet in Paris to escape deportation.

David Detrich lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where he has just completed The Convergence of Two Narrative Lines Ascending, an ultramodern Surrealist novel written in minimal squares. He is working on Dream the Presence of the Circular Breast Starfish Topography, a monumental Surrealist novel written with innovative typographical design. His first novel Big Sur Marvels & Wondrous Delights (2001) is available from Amazon. He is the editor of Innovative Fiction Magazine and Surrealist Star Clustered Illuminations.


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