In search of Jeanne Duval: The Baudelaire Fractal, by Lisa Robertson, reviewed

The shared etymology of the words ‘text’, ‘textile’ and ‘texture’ – from the Latin verb textere, ‘to weave’ – has long been a fertile subject, its thread running through the work of theorists such as Roland Barthes, Julia Kristeva, Hélène Cixous, Gilles Deleuze (from whom one of the epigraphs for this book is taken) and others. But this now critical commonplace provides a helpful entry point to the Canadian poet Lisa Robertson’s sometimes evasive first novel The Baudelaire Fractal, a work obsessed with textiles, tailoring, intertextuality and the woven physicality of language. The word ‘novel’ seems only really appropriate in its adjectival sense. It tells the story of Hazel Brown,