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Review of Ann Quin’s Berg

And it is this prose that makes Quin’s novel so dazzling 55 years later. The language of her book lurches in unexpected directions, fishtailing wildly from the dark to the erotic to the violent to the insanely funny. It feels barely in control, but willfully so. In insisting on this dicey means of narrative movement for the majority of the novel, she can make even simple actions feel berserk: “Crossing the park: a subterranean world surreptitiously risen; here a million star-fish pinned on the forelocks of a hundred unicorns driven by furious witches.” In describing what should be quotidian, she instead confronts the reader with a moment of demonic weirdness. And just as the psychedelia of her prose sets in, the narrative skates along, leaving behind one chaotic situation for another. Reading Quin is a marvelously frustrating experience that works according to diffraction. The light of the novel comes into contact with some interference and then creates new patterns that bump against other interferences to create new patterns.

Ann Quin’s Surrealist Novel ‘Berg’ Annihilates All Expectation reviewed at The Nation.