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Hunger Magazine Review - Paris France

Hunger Magazine Review - Paris France

The Old Century: The Early Stories and Poems of Roman Payne, reviewed in the May 2005 issue of Hunger Magazine (Paris, France)
Reviewed by Lee Morey

he stories gathered in The Old Century range from 1996 to 1999. In this – his first, youthful contribution to literature, Roman Payne displays a particular narrative drive. It is a drive which molds secret stories that unfold in front of our eyes. The tales wander between Bohemia, Paris, and unknown cities, through unknown forests, unfolding a topography of dreams. Payne’s prose filters the vision of Yoruba folktales, the colour work of Thomas Mann as well as the skinny, damp room-walls of Kafka. He offers glimpses of timelessness. He is “turning time into space”. The space, the places of fiction belong to the tales, the fables, and their endless beginnings and ends. Payne knows this fact, and gives them room to breathe, grow and expand in our imagination. The intensity of the short piece “Occurrence al Rio Marròn”, the silent, unknowable machination at play in “A Handsome Son” pay respect to Payne’s kinetic prose.
The drive.
The poetry.
Tales also uncover a panorama made of musicians, the twinkle of absinthe bottles, the pace of lovesick wanderers in empty streets – a bestiary of the mind that is still present in his first novel, Crepuscule. This imagery goes along, in a larger design, with Roman Payne’s style, that seem to reach the sabi. The sabi is a certain quality. A tea-kettle polished by the years. A space of perfect shadow in the corner of an old room. Familiar yet unhomely. And always coming back. Timeless, belonging to no place but its own. Just where and when at Roman Payne’s stories are.
The opening sentence of “The City Alchemist” starts as an epitaph:

I could have died a thousand evenings in this apartment, on these strange chemicals I’ve concocted – watching the damp blue of dawn grow sad smells and visions in this sparse flat. I am a good alchemist, and if I die I know that I will leave important discoveries behind.

These stories may be his first discoveries, or the first opals, loves, fears, here recorded. An alchemist can turn lead into gold, but also crafts a whole variation of fusions and extractions. In a few words, we are looking forward to seeing Roman Payne performing new metamorphoses on a page.

- Lee Morey, Editor of Hunger Magazine
Paris, May, 2005



Hunger Magazine Review - Paris France

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