Angus & Robertson/Sirius, $12.99 pb, 266pp, 0-207-16296-4
The kind of writing that is to be found in Ania Walwicz’s collection Boat is the kind that angers many people. Eschewing punctuation as benevolent and therefore inferior signposts to meaning, Walwicz’s prose is uncompromisingly difficult. Plot is virtually absent. Syntax defies convention. The ugly, both visually and verbally, is preferred to the beautiful.
Her tradition is that of Dadaism and the Surrealists, which in effect dates this vigorous and rigorous prose. The avant-garde experimentations of Tristan Tzara’s clique and later the more committed (and ultimately more conformist) band clustered around Breton were defiant reactions, and such bursts of energy are hard to sustain. In the case of the more organised Surrealist movement, the efforts to sustain it showed up most painfully the inherent anomalies in an anarchic movement that seeks to impose its own rules. There was a bizarre streak of conservatism running through even the wicked arrogance of Tzara. As for Breton, an example like his fantastically self-indulgent Nadja, a story purporting to be that of a mysteriously brilliant woman but really the narcissistic story of Breton’s own fun-and-games experimentation with the unconscious, suffices to reveal his mauvaise foi.