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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Op Oloop

Juan Filloy

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To purchase Op Oloop

Title: Op Oloop
Author: Juan Filloy
Genre: Novel
Written: 1934 (Eng. 2009)
Length: 251 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Op Oloop - US
Op Oloop - US (Spanish)
Op Oloop - UK
Op Oloop - Canada
Op Oloop - Deutschland
Op Oloop - France
Op Oloop - España
  • Spanish title: Op Oloop
  • Translated by Lisa Dillman

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Our Assessment:

A- : enjoyable tale of man undone by his rationalism and love

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Le Monde . 24/11/2011 Raphaëlle Leyris
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 4/7/2002 Thomas Sträter
Welt am Sonntag . 15/9/2002 Gunter Blank

  From the Reviews:
  • "Pour rendre compte de la confusion de son personnage, Juan Filloy orchestre avec virtuosité la rencontre du burlesque et du médical, du lyrique et du pornographique, du grotesque et du sublime. (...) Les malheurs d'Optimus Oloop, racontés sur un irrésistible mode picaresque, font le bonheur du lecteur." - Raphaëlle Leyris, Le Monde

  • "Die Konfrontation von Gefühl und Verstand, von Trieb und Ratio, das Streben nach der reinen Liebe bilden so etwas wie den roten Faden des Romans (.....) Filloy nutzt virtuos die Techniken von Futuristen und Surrealisten, um sie gleich darauf mit ätzendem Spott zu überschütten. Und auch zu Beginn des neuen Jahrtausends beweist diese Mischung aus Absurdität und Geschichtspessimismus eine erstaunliche Aktualität." - Gunter Blank, Welt am Sonntag

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Op Oloop, the protagonist of this novel, is a Finnish statistician -- and ratio incarnate, "method personified". He is governed by numbers, and hence:

Op Oloop was entirely incapable of any impromptu act that might violate the pre-established norms of his routine; even such a trivial, graphical act such as addressing an envelope he'd already begun while still within the allotted time.
When life is as ordered as a mathematical equation, you can't just skip a digit whenever you like it.
       Needless to say, life doesn't always play along (indeed, it's a wonder he's gotten this far), and early during the less than twenty-four hour span of the novel Oloop gets bumped slightly off course (which is enough for him to find: "All my methodology has gone straight to hell") and never manages to get quite back on again.
       Love is a further complication, as he has fallen in love with the niece of the local Finnish Consul, Franziska Hoerée. It was on his way to an engagement party for the two of them that he got thrown off track -- thrown for an (unending) loop, in fact ("I can't seem to bring the experience to a close", he notes with considerable dismay). And he finds:
My personality is built on reflection, but I can no longer see myself.
       Still, he remains somewhat attuned to what is happening to him, even as he senses it is destroying him:
The miracle of love has plotted the definitive sabotage of my spirit. I note intolerable obstacles, steel traps that make my psychological gears slip and destroy the harmonious mechanics of my system. It's deplorable.
       Both he and Franziska are quite undone by the turn of events -- yet also find themselves connected on a higher spiritual plane: a meeting of minds and souls that continues through the book, even as they are separated. Oloop stumbles through the rest of the day and night, spending most of it at a grand dinner with some friends, still unable to gather himself. A further crisis comes in the form of the discovery of an unexpected link to his past. It's all a bit much for him to bear.
       A friend diagnoses:
His tragedy lies in numbers: in being all method and no style. His esprit de geometrie forces a square peg into a round hole, as it were. He wants to chart and graph it all ! But the sentimental beings who inhabit our souls can't be organized into numerical series, coordinates, formulas. We've heard his heart explode. Perfection, shot to pieces !
       Filloy focusses largely on the already broken man, his precision and pedantry a memory that Oloop desperately tries to cling to but that slips like sand through his fingers. The novel veers between slapstick humor, philosophising, and ethereal romance; just as he doesn't allow his protagonist to get his bearings, Filloy toys with the reader, too.
       Filloy -- one of whose favorite literary forms was the palindrome -- can well be considered a pre-Oulipoian writer with the games he plays in his text and the mix of maths and wordgames, and he uses all these to good effect in this novel. Not all of this comes across in translation: Filloy likes his puns, and only some of these can be conveyed in the English. His fondness for the grand pronouncements and philosophical flights of fancy comes across better: the novel is full of wonderfully put thoughts, from the pithy -- "Love is a plane crash of the soul" -- to the discursive:
Life itself -- which for Goethe was multiple in character, and for Kant, rational -- is not necessarily extinguished by the demise of one or even thousands of its integral elements. So, for people who are chronologically infirm, the voyage of life is nothing more than a funeral cortège mathematically culminating in the necropolis, when matter finally becomes entirely overwhelmed, and perishes.
       And, of course, there's Oloop's wonderful cri de cœur to Franziska:
Oh no, cherie ! They'll never be able to abelardize us ! Our union is incoercible. It can't be touched by vulgarity. If any difficulties arise, our mutual trust will overcome them. I'm nothing like Abelard. No one can abelardize me ! And they'll certainly never manage to abelardize us !
       (No one has any idea what he means by that, but someone does note: "It's a neologism. That's a bad sign")
       Op Oloop is a strange, playful novel, as Filloy twists the story around the flights of fancy and philosophy that seem to be the main excuse for it. It is decidedly odd, but sparkles in its oddity.
       Well worthwhile.

- M.A.Orthofer, 19 April 2009

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Op Oloop: Reviews: Other books by Juan Filloy under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Argentine author Juan Filloy lived 1894 to 2000.

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