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Gazelle by Rikki Ducornet
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Gazelle (edition 2004)

by Rikki Ducornet

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743161,401 (3.79)4
Member:Asterixia
Title:Gazelle
Authors:Rikki Ducornet
Info:Anchor (2004), Paperback, 208 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:un si proche orient

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Gazelle by Rikki Ducornet

(1) 1950s (1) 2000s (1) 2003 (1) A1 (1) American (4) barb read (1) bildungsroman (1) coll (1) contemporary (1) CSUF (1) culled (1) Egypt (5) female (1) fiction (13) Fiction - Novel (1) gift (1) glamour (1) hardcover (1) HC (1) inscribed (1) library (1) literature (2) magical realism (1) meh (1) novel (2) own (1) to-read (3) unowned (1) women (1)
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Yes yes yes! If books were perfumes, this one would be the perfect mix of storytelling prowess, enchantment of language, whiff of philosophy, and scent of great characters. Oh, and a dash of humor to taste. A highly potent potion, to be sure, yet none of the above elements suffers because of the others. It’s like each word in this short book is doing double or triple duty to those ends.The gesture, like the gesture a magician makes with his wand, multiplying doves at will, seeded the city with women--voluptuous women smelling of henna and smoke, of the metal knife the moment it halves the apple, of brocade, of nostalgia, of transgression. I felt the press of women's bodies coming at us from all directions.The imaginination and pure awe infused herein was thrilling, and reminded me slightly of the wonder of certain children’s books, except that even though everything here is soaked in a kind of fantastic openness bordering on magic, you soon realize that nothing is really magical or illogical. Behind the enchantment is a tough reality that guides everything, allowing no short cuts for the characters or the reader. The flaws of the narrator, her father, her mother, and even Ramses Ragab all become apparent. They are all tragically flawed, yet entirely loveable.Then she [Mother] was back in the cab, her white hand sparkling behind the filthy glass, and then she was gone. p. 80

I remember that Ramses Ragab took up Father’s feet to tuck them beneath the covers. That the beauty of my father’s feet astonished me. p. 85Reading the other reviews on here, you’d think this was an overly poetic book at the cost of the plot, but it’s not. The things that happen in the book may not seem significant in the normal sense of ‘plot’, but each little thing adds up to huge internal changes in each of the characters. This is what makes it so exciting, and such a fast-paced book (for me), while being such a slow book (apparently) for others.As father and I retreated into the blazing sun, the rising dust and clamor of the street, the city of Cairo gave way to a forest of the mind. A forest where female animals offered themselves to love and in broad daylight were mounted before the eyes of the world.I’m amazed at the number of themes Ducornet is able to fit in here, the idea of bottling things up, preserving memories (and thus the body), of sexuality/sensuality, men/women, of betrayal, of rationality vs. everything else, of moral weakness, of games and play vs. life, and thus of reality vs. escape. The book has a lot to say, most of which I can’t even express as binaries, or it would be unfair to. But if there was one thing I was disappointed with, it would probably be the ending, which seemed to reduce (though not completely) the complex network of themes woven previously into one of sexual realization. To me, it seems to be about so much more.This amulet is often joined by another representing the knife used to cut the umbilical cord. Whenever I find it, I make a quick (superstitious!) gesture across my own belly. In this way I have, over and over, severed ties with Mother. p. 52This was my first experience with Ducornet, and I am definitely going to check out more of her books. ( )
  JimmyChanga | Sep 11, 2013 |
Yawn. I just didn't care. Very unlikable and unsympathetic characters, especially the parents who were so wrapped up in their own drama that they didn't seem to notice that they had a child. This would have been okay if the narrator herself had been interesting and intriguing, but she was instead mopey and self-involved. In other words, like the average teenager. Average teenagers don't make for good fiction. Her first person narrative moved along at a snail's crawl even though the book was 189 pages.

There were moments where I thought the prose beautiful, hence the two star. ( )
  snat | Jun 20, 2009 |
Bought this because the front quote compares it, in part, to Suskind's Perfume, which I really enjoyed. However, there really is any comparison, other than book stories having perfume as theme. In Gazelle it is only a small theme, though. The other book mentioned in the quote is Margarite Duras' The Lover, which I suspect is a closer comparison, though I haven't read it (I will though).

I did enjoy this story, though it is quite uneven. Some of what might be dreamy storytelling is just plain purple prose. The father is just too strange, even for fiction, and the mother too flat. The narrator is the only believable character. Even Cairo seems to be "any city," and Cairo in the 1950s was certainly not generic. ( )
  Zmrzlina | Nov 11, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375411240, Hardcover)

A mother’s betrayal, an unexpurgated copy of The Arabian Nights, a dazzling perfume-maker, and the scent of rose attar all serve to awaken a girl of thirteen to erotic life.

In Rikki Ducornet’s new novel, Elizabeth, the daughter of a professor of history living in Cairo in the 1950s, tells how she came to be an anatomist of mummies, as she opens up to us the sensations and aromas of ancient times, and explains how the city of Cairo itself gives her power – and wisdom – and takes away from her the part of the self that is necessary for love.

When her mother leaves her father to “walk” the streets of Cairo, and her father forgets himself in games of chess and war, thirteen-year-old Elizabeth ponders Schéhérazade’s words, “It is good for a girl to be with
a man,” and finds comfort at the shop of Ramses Ragab, a master perfumer dedicated to resurrecting the lost
fragrances of the past (the Susinum prized by Roman women; the nardinon loved by Pliny; the hekenou of
the Pharaohs).

Under the tutelage of the perfumer, Elizabeth reads ancient esoteric texts and learns the mysteries of fragrance. Ramses Ragab is a sensitive and brilliant man, and Elizabeth’s burst of love for him has a child’s intensity and a young woman’s passion. When her father hires a magician to bring back his wife, Elizabeth
discovers just how precious she herself is – and how worthless – as a girl and soon to be beautiful woman,
in this ancient land of stone, sand, and darkness.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:10 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Elizabeth, the daughter of a professor of history living in Cairo in the 1950s, tells how she came to be an anatomist of mummies, as she opens up to us the sensations and aromas of ancient times, and explains how the city of Cairo itself gives her power - and wisdom - and takes away from her the part of the self that is necessary for love." "When her mother leaves her father to "walk" the streets of Cairo, and her father forgets himself in games of chess and war, thirteen-year-old Elizabeth ponders Scheherazade's words, "It is good for a girl to be with a man, " and finds comfort at the shop of Ramses Ragab, a master perfumer dedicated to resurrecting the lost fragrances of the past (the Susinum prized by Roman women; the nardinon loved by Pliny, the hekenou of the Pharaohs)." "Under the tutelage of the perfumer, Elizabeth reads ancient esoteric texts and learns the mysteries of fragrance. Ramses Ragab is a sensitive and brilliant man, and Elizabeth's burst of love for him has a child's intensity and a young woman's passion. When her father hires a magician to bring back his wife, Elizabeth discovers just how precious she herself is - and how worthless - as a girl and soon to be beautiful woman, in this ancient land of stone, sand, and darkness."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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