Four experimental novels

This reading group will explore four experimental novels ranging from post colonial literature to theoretical horror. The four books are Sembene Ousmane’s, Xala (1974), Renata Adler’s Speedboat (1976), Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia (2008) and Vanessa Place’s Statement of Facts (2008). All of the books are known for their exploration of the socio-political context they are situated in and their experimentation with literary form.

We will read and discuss a book each fortnight.
The reading group takes place on a Thursday night 6 – 7:30 pm at Rm on K’rd and the Auckland Central Library

September 3: Session 1.
Sembene Ousmane, Xala, 1974
Location: Rm, 1st floor, 307 K’Road, Newton, Auckland. Entry from Samoa House Lane

September 17: Session 2.
Renata Adler, Speedboat, 1976
Location: Auckland Central Library, Te Marama Room,
Level 1, 44 – 46 Lorne St, Auckland CBD (far corner behind the Level 1 assistance desk)

October 8: Session 3. (date changed from 1 Oct)
Reza Negarestani, Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials, 2008
Location: Rm, 1st floor, 307 K’Road, Newton, Auckland. Entry from Samoa House Lane

October 22: Session 4. (date changed from 15 Oct)
Vanessa Place, Statement of Facts, 2008
Location: Rm, 1st floor, 307 K’Road, Newton, Auckland. Entry from Samoa House Lane

About the books
Sembene Ousmane: Xala
Chicago Review Press, 1997 (1974)
Download a pdf here:

First published in French in 1973 and later translated into English in 1976, Xala is the story of El Hadji Kader Beye, a Muslim business man living in Dakar, Senegal, and his obsession with the impotence he suffers after his third marriage. The novel follows several weeks in El Hadji’s life and his “rapid decline from affluence to total humiliation and ruin.”

Reza Negarestani: Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials
Repress 2008
Download a pdf here

Cyclonopedia is theoretical-fiction novel by Iranian philosopher and writer Reza Negarestani. At once a horror fiction, a work of speculative theology, an atlas of demonology, a political samizdat and a philosophic grimoire, Cyclonopedia is work of theory-fiction on the Middle East, where horror is restlessly heaped upon horror. Reza Negarestani bridges the appalling vistas of contemporary world politics and the War on Terror with the archaeologies of the Middle East and the natural history of the Earth itself.

Renata Adler: Speedboat
New York Review Books, 1976
This book is available at the public library

Told by Jen Frain, a journalist, Speedboat is a fragmentary and frequently hilarious novel about what it was to be an urban American in the 1970s. Here we have a narrator whose “I” looks out, not in. Frain describes her friends and work so keenly that at times she is almost effaced from her own narrative. Made out of seemingly unrelated vignettes—tart observations distilled through relentless intellect— it adds up to an analysis of our brittle, urban existence.

Vanessa Place: Statement of Facts
Ubu editions, 2008
Download a pdf here:

*** Warning – this book uses transcripts taken from sexual assault cases ***
Vanessa Place’s Statement of Facts project involves reproducing Statements of Facts from some of her appellate briefs and representing them as poetry. A statement of facts is a legal document which sets forward factual information without argument. These documents are used in a variety of legal settings, ranging from appeals to filing vehicle registration paperwork.
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About the reading group:
The reading group: is open to anyone who wishes to participate and we encourage you to forward this invitation to your networks. We will be reading and discussing a new book each fortnight. The group is facilitated by Melissa Laing [melissa at] who will be learning alongside and with everyone who participates.

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  1. Pingback: New Reading Group: Experimental Fiction | University Without Conditions

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