It doesn't quite suffice to say a certain symbolism exists in a certain section of any of Roussel's work, but sometimes, by curious circumstances one finds hints, or narrow yet facile meta-doors into the possibility of a given symbolism. Reading beginning at Section XI in the old Foord and Heppenstall translation of Roussel's Impressions of Africa. I started out casually enough, making note of certain possible homophonic phrases gleaned while pondering a possible onomastics of the first two names mentioned, namely, Talu and Rul. Talu is the old Poet King of Ejur who is the father, though unknown to Seil Kor, the main and current King, but not his biological father. Rul is his mother. First, I played with the phrase: "Tall you rule." And then "To all you rule." Now being so inclined to think of Roussel as being part of the lineage of Oulipo, I was immediately put onto this idea of the ironic structurality of including the concept of a rule as a character, a generative rule. But I also was reminded of the use of false rules, or faux rules, or 'tall tales'.. The story has that feeling of a tall tale, or of a kind of adventure story or romance. Not delving any deeper into the Talu / Rul complex. I then began to contemplate this second, but narratologically earlier, shipwreck, and possibly also the first, as a strange homage to Mallarme's Coup de Des, but how would I connect this novel in its entirety by one or more simple changes, to the title of Mallarme's famous poem?
Curiously, I could find no path through French, but justifying an altered path through English which I will endeavor to show. I came up with the following:
"Un Coup de Dés Jamais N'Abolira Le Hasard" would become
"No coup for the Jamaican despot who never abolished chance."
The odd thing I guess, is that I've used the French word for 'never' to become Jamaica, but Ejur is patently supposed to be in Africa. For some reason, I came up with a possible thought from Roussel. "What if I were to found a never-never land of Africa for my novel(ty), in which some citizens were never to be made slaves of the white men, were never conquered by anyone except perhaps by their own vicissitudes, or perhaps in a more humorous vein it is this thought:
A throw of the dice is a nether god (never to nether, and Jamaica to Ja Maker) which gives abolition to chants.
This then would be at least a description of the Rul(e).
"Chance as demiurge gives rise to chants," or "Its one divine rule is song."
Or from Le Hasard to Le Haha surd, or logically derived absurdities, or "laughing logics"
or really species of ludicity, which in a playful way is very close to lucidity, lucid ludics.
Now, there is another odd echo, which is a sort of echo of roots, or the possibilities for feeling in narrative that I feel sure must have inspired the mind of Roussel. The only specific thing I will say is that there are a few very Rousselian details about this story. The story of Robert Burn and Jenny Clow. The name of Roussel's ship is the Sylvander. Sylvander is the name Burns used in a series of loveletters to Jenny Clow's employer Agnes Maclehose, but upon the delivering of a letter one time, Burns seduced and impregnated Jenny clow:
Following an affair whilst with the poet while he was in Edinburgh, the twenty year old Jenny Clow gave birth in November 1788 to Robert Burns's child, Robert Burns Clow. She is said to have had a port wine birthmark that caused her embarrassment in public situations. Jenny died three years later from TB.
Robert Burns (clue):
In Roussel, the girl child of Talu and Rul is named Sirdah and is 'burned' with the same star marking her forehead which echoes the golden hair pin star which Rul desired from the dead Swiss woman. The only possible connection I could find between "Swiss Woman" and Jenny Clow
was the phrase Charwoman, the operative connective being 'Swiss Chard" or Swiss Charred (Burnt). There is also a sense of the "holy" from Swiss cheese. The Swiss woman is trying to save her own child, whose sex is left ambiguous by Roussel. Let's visit Roussel's mention of the red birth mark of Sirdah, or perhaps her name is really (Life)-iS-(c)hard:
"The sight of human affairs deserves admiration and pity. They are worthy of respect, too. And he is not insensible who pays them the undemon- strative tribute of a sigh which is not a sob, and of a smile which is not a grin." JOSEPH CONRAD.
Strangely, there is also this small text from Burns about Jenny Clow:
"Oh Jenny’s a weet, poor body,
Jenny’s seldom dry,
She draigl’t a’ her petticoats,
Comin thro’ the rye"!
And then there is the life of Robert Burns Clow itself which seems somehow pertinent:
Born in Edinburgh in 1788, Robert Burns was willing to take (him) into his home, but his mother would not part with him. He later became a wealthy merchant in London. Robert (Burns Clow) married and had a son, also Robert Burns Clow, who went to Borneo, married a chief's daughter and was killed by pirates. He had been given his father's names, as this was the custom at the time. He was to name his own son Robert, however he never capitalized on the link with his famous poet father.
At any rate, however Raymond Roussel may have come up with this particular part of his tale in Impressions of Africa, I don't think we will ever know definitively. That ship no longer bobs above the waves. Its clues are burned away, leaving us to clown about in the wreckage, and sigh, but not sob.
In Ejur, in the land of old Suan,
Talu and Rul happen to view
The shipwreck of the Mallarme'..
It tosses up a lady's corpse
limp as chard in a Swiss
costume of white and billowing
sleeves as creamy as cheese.
Rul sees her red velvet corset,
and a star of golden hair pins
which Rul madly covets, and sends
a slave to fetch in the awful
waves, discovering also
a dead child clinging clos
by the neck of the corpse, and later
a name, Sylvander, embroidered
upon a sailor's cap, last cap
left floating in the foam.
Tal and Rul give birth to Sirdah
who has a star-shaped birthmark
strangely - on her forehead
which leaves Rul cold
and so takes Mossem,
the tall councillor of Talu.
Mossem and Rul give birth to a boy
and abandon Sirdah to the dark Vorrh
and Talu all unawares begins the Jeruka
in war and bellicose sadness.
Mossem takes Jizme (to hide his sin from Talu)
to hide his relations with Rul
Jizme finds Naïr (As Mossem never touches her)
And then there is the letter.
Every seduction, isduction,
begins with the letter.
Or is symbolism a finely woven
Is Naïr reversed close enough to Reign to echo Rul?
Naïr uses a 'chanted formula' in order to remember the
complex steps needed to create the mosquito trap.