Los Angeles Review of Books - Digital Editions: 8 Golden Greats: The Best of LARB Music
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In time he joins a guerrilla force—does it matter which one? The warden is horrified to learn that the narrator has abandoned the girl. She only needs training. She has to be taught toughness, in life and in bed. The narrator though is not upset at this idea; rather, he is mortified that his sense of identification with the warden has been sundered:. At that moment I was more concerned with him, linked to him so closely, as if we shared the same blood. I could not bear to be alienated from him. Just then she was nothing to me by comparison, not even real.
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The girl, a trace, the decenterd center, slips between narrator and warden, all three agents of the same narrative force. I should have been inured to climatic changes; but I again felt I had moved out of ordinary life into an area of total strangeness.
All this was real, it was really happening, but with a quality of the unreal; it was reality happening in quite a different way. It did not matter. And the apocalypse? Very highly recommended. Consider these lines early in Chapter I got only intermittent glimpses of my surroundings, which seemed vaguely familiar, and yet distorted, unreal. My ideas were confused.
In a peculiar way, the unreality of the outer world appeared to be an extension of my own disturbed state of mind. His ego vacillates between energy and lethargy, intense interest and detached boredom. Nobody took the least notice of me. I must have been recognized, but received no sign of recognition from anyone, felt increasingly derealized, as familiar faces came up and passed me without a glance.
A few paragraphs later he projects grand delusions—or rather, what I take to be grand delusions. In spite of an almost feverish anxiety over the girl, instead of attempting to find her I stood there doing nothing at all; became aware of an odd sort of fragmentation of my ideas. Our first-person narrator, privy to scenes he cannot possibly have attended, tries to stabilize the whole project for both himself and us, his readers without whom we begin to suspect he cannot exist.
No snow; no ruins; no armed guards. It was a miracle, a flashback to something dreamed. Then another shock, the sensation of a violent awakening, as it dawned on me that this was the reality, and those other things the dream. All of a sudden the life I had lately been living appeared unreal: it simply was not credible any longer.
I felt a huge relief, it was like emerging into sunshine from a long cold black tunnel. I wanted to forget what had just been happening, to forget the girl and the senseless, frustrating pursuit I had been engaged in, and think only about the future. The novel anticipates total apocalypse. Little could have survived. Her face haunted me: the sweep of her long lashes, her timid enchanting smile; and then a change of expression I could produce at will, a sudden shift, a bruised look, a quick change to terror, to tears.
The strength of the temptation alarmed me. The black descending arm of the executioner; my hands seizing her wrists … I was afraid the dream might turn out to be real … Something in her demanded victimization and terror, so she corrupted my dreams, led me into dark places I had no wish to explore. It was no longer clear to me which of us was the victim. Perhaps we were victims of one another. In an indescribable way our looks tangled together.
I seemed to be looking at my own reflection. Suddenly I was entangled in utmost confusion, not sure which of us was which. We were like halves of one being, joined in some mysterious symbiosis. I fought to retain my identity, but all my efforts failed to keep us apart. I continually found I was not myself, but him. At one moment I actually seemed to be wearing his clothes. More to come. I read these 60 odd pages 63, to be precise, in my Penguin Classics 50th Anniversary Edition of the novel today, often feeling lost, and glad of it.
I was aware of an uncertainty of the real, in my surroundings and in myself. What I saw had no solidity, it was all made of mist and nylon, with nothing behind. The first swerve into unreality if it is indeed unreality happens in the opening paragraphs. I have just describe the plot of the first several chapters. Here is how we first meet the girl:. An unearthly whiteness began to bloom on the hedges. I passed a gap and glanced through. She did not look in my direction. Motionless, she kept her eyes fixed on the walls moving slowly towards her, a glassy, glittering circle of solid ice, of which she was the centre.
Dazzling flashes came from the ice-cliffs far over her head; below, the outermost fringes of ice had already reached her, immobilized her, set hard as concrete over her feet and ankles. I watched the ice climb higher, covering knees and thighs, saw her mouth open, a black hole in the white face, heard her thin, agonized scream. I felt no pity for her. On the contrary, I derived an indescribable pleasure from seeing her suffer.
I disapproved of my own callousness, but there it was. He finally arrives at the house of the girl and her husband. Kavan layers this visit with his memories or fantasies? Kavan condenses these scenes with surreal fabulsim. We get lost together.
Our narrator can also see sights that seem impossible to a first-person perspective—he seems able to see the girl in rooms we understand to be closed, in spaces we understand to be private, from distances we understand to be impossible. Instead of the darkness, she faced a stupendous sky-conflagration, an incredible glacial dream-scene. Cold coruscations of rainbow fire pulsed overhead, shot through by shafts of pure incandescence thrown out by mountains of solid ice towering all around.
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Closer, the trees round the house, sheathed in ice, dripped and sparkled with weird prismatic jewels, reflecting the vivid changing cascades above. Instead of the familiar night sky, the aurora borealis formed a blazing, vibrating roof of intense cold and colour, beneath which the earth was trapped with all its inhabitants, walled in by those impassable glittering ice-cliffs.
The world had become an arctic prison from which no escape was possible, all its creatures trapped as securely as were the trees, already lifeless inside their deadly resplendent armour. Our narrator, as before, is able to access this private space, which he describes for us in horrific, archetypal terms:. She was in bed, not asleep, waiting. A faint pinkish glow came from a lamp beside her. The wide bed stood on a platform, bed and platform alike covered in sheepskin, facing a great mirror nearly as long as the wall. Alone here, where nobody could hear her, where nobody was meant to hear, she was cut off from all contact, totally vulnerable, at the mercy of the man who came in without knocking, without a word, his cold, very bright blue eyes pouncing on hers in the glass.
She crouched motionless, staring silently into the mirror, as if mesmerized.
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The hypnotic power of his eyes could destroy her will, already weakened by the mother who for years had persistently crushed it into submission. I saw it happen. Meanwhile, the girl seems subject to multiple instances of becoming a victim, sacrificial and otherwise. There are cliffs, there are dragons, there are battles, there are phosphorescent skeletons. They are real enough to the narrator in any case, even if he seems able to walk away from them after a paragraph or two.
https://whisacpaybur.tk It is apocalypse without explanation, without understanding, without wisdom.