The Chicago Poetry Project presents
a staged reading of the play
“The Dust of Suns”
by Raymond Roussel
Trans. Harry Mathews
Fri & Sat 8pm; Sun 3pm
All performances are FREE!
at The Charnel House
3421 W. Fullerton Street
This script-in-hand performance of Raymond Roussel’s play, directed by John Beer, with design by Caroline Picard, features an array of Chicago writers and artists.
Performers include: James Tadd Alcox, Joshua Corey, Joel Craig, Monica Fambrough, Sara Gothard, Judith Goldman, Samantha Irby, Lisa Janssen, Jennifer Karmin, Jamie Kazay, John Keene, Jacob Knabb, Francesco Levato, Brian Nemtusak, Travis Nichols, Jacob Saenz, Larry Sawyer, Suzanne Scanlon, Jennifer Steele and Nicole Wilson.
French poet, novelist and playwright Raymond Roussel (1877-1933) faced almost universal incomprehension and derision during his lifetime, for works that neglected traditional character and plot development in favor of the construction of elaborate descriptions and anecdotes based on hidden wordplay. While the premieres of his self-financed plays caused near-riots, admirers included Surrealists Andre Breton and Robert Desnos, who called The Dust of Suns (1926) “another incursion into the unknown which you alone are exploring.” Roussel never enjoyed the posthumous fame of his hero Jules Verne, but he has exercised a powerful fascination upon later writers and artists including the French Oulipo group, Marcel Duchamp, John Ashbery, Michel Foucault, and Michael Palmer. New editions of his novels and poetry are forthcoming this year from Princeton and Dalkey Archive.
Like much of Roussel’s writing, The Dust of Suns has a colonial setting. Against the backdrop of fin-de-siecle French Guiana, a convoluted treasure hunt unfolds. Along the way, Roussel fully indulges his penchant for bizarre invention and juxtaposition. The Frenchman Blache seeks his uncle’s inheritance: a cache of gems whose location lies at the end of a chain of clues that includes a sonnet engraved on a skull and the recollections of an albino shepherdess. Meanwhile, his daughter Solange is in love with Jacques—but all Jacques knows of his parentage is a mysterious tattoo on his shoulder…