The geographer within me likes a sense of place in a novel, the flâneur within me enjoys others’ urban explorations and the historian within me likes, well, a bit of history. This was perhaps an almost ideal novel, if novel is the right description – it is a mixture a biography, travelogue and novel following the fascinating life of boxer, poet, Dadaist, self –publicist and trickster Arthur Cravan from the early part of the 20th century and the early 21st century’s narrator’s attempts to trace the course of Cravan’s last years – following him from Paris to Barcelona, New York and to his disappearance in Mexico.
There are some definite stylistic nods towards W G Sebald in the intertwining of fiction, travelogue, history and photographs within the narrative. Whether the narrator is a Sebaldian approximation for Lalé is an entirely different matter though. The reader is left wondering, though, about the motives for the increasingly neurotic narrator’s own journey – although all becomes clear by the closing pages.
It is beautifully written and somewhat surprising that it didn’t receive more attention when it was published in 2007. From the acknowledgements, Cravan seems to have been a long term fascination of Lalé and by the time of publication he seems to have moved onto film making so any follow up may not be that likely.