Rapids by Tim Parks - review by Tristan Quinn

Tristan Quinn

White-Water Politics

Rapids

By

Secker & Warburg 246pp £12.99 order from our bookshop
 

‘Any great and lasting book must be ambiguous,’ wrote André Maurois in the middle of the last century, summarising the view of the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. ‘It is a mirror that makes the reader’s features known, but the author must seem to be unaware of the significance of his own work.’ Such a statement might feel a little too prescriptive these days, but it helps explain why Rapids, while perfectly readable, is not a great novel. There is not much ambiguity in Tim Parks’s rather contrived story of a group of British adolescent and adult canoeists who go to the Italian Alps to learn white-water kayaking, and along the way learn significant things about themselves. 

Rapids opens with a note about the perils of turning reality into fiction: ‘the rapids of the river Aurino are not exactly as described. Canoeists beware! This book is not a guide for a safe descent.’ Parks tips us off that, although the novel overflows with vivid, mildly technical white-water

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