Set in a seedy Congolese bar seemingly far removed from the ever-present influences of globalization (aside perhaps from the occasional copy of Paris-Match), Alain Mabanckou's Verre Cassé (2005)2 does not have a single foot- or endnote. In fact, the novel has no such peritext3 whatsoever aside from its title and two short inter-titles that serve to identify the two parts of the work as premiers feuillets and derniers feuillets. However, this absence of peritext is not in the least surprising given that the novel does not contain any lexical, idiomatic or vernacular terms specific to the region that might confuse or otherwise disorient the reader. Rather, what is shocking is the novel's syntax. Rivaling the syntactic dexterity of Perec and Proust, the eponymous protagonist's long-winded narrative (presented in the form of a notebook that recounts the exploits and hardships of his fellow patrons at Le Crédit a voyagé) amounts to nearly 250 pages without recourse to a single punctuation mark aside from commas and quotations marks. What is even more shocking (and clearly a testament to Mabanckou's talent as a wordsmith) is that, rather than being impeded by Verre Cassé's stream-of-consciousness prose, readers soon find themselves swept up in the current of the narrative agent's ingenuity, carried along in seemingly effortless fashion to the novel's "conclusion" (which, of course, lacks final punctuation)4.
This document was originally published in Revue Critique de Fixxion Française Contemporaine. This work is provided under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 license. Details regarding the use of this work can be found at: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/.
Herbeck, Jason. (2011). "User-Friendliness and Virtual Reality: A Hypertextual Reading of Alain Mabanckou’s Verre Cassé". Revue Critique de Fixxion Française Contemporaine, (3), 50-59.