Sunday, September 14, 2008

Senselessness' narrator

What does the narrator of Horacio Moya's Senselessness actually mean when he begins by saying that he is incomplete in the mind ? And why do we have to constantly feel the urgency of his thoughts? That he is a scared person is quite obvious, that he lapses into paranoia is the question. The un-named narrator, who is quite a skilled one at that, who can distinguish between dull prose and melancholic poetry remains un-named throughout. We know that he is in exile, scared, running away from something. He is in hiding, he hides something but that is besides the point. What matter most are the internal changes taking inside the narrator.

I wrote a post on Senselessness here, which now seems quite unsatisfactory. ( Alok's post) Whilst reading the testimonies of survivors and (here I am not getting into the procedural aspects that these have entailed in many places, the problems that eventually result from such post-mortems etc), the narrator finds the testimonies growing on him, each sentence and each word becomes heavy, a thing not just to imagine but to feel. Everything is in the feeling. He feels the poetry, he makes a note of lines that are the most poetic, for what? later reference? and then he repeats them to himself. In this repetition is a kind of catharsis ( a wrong word, concept, I know it means and does nothing to the victims) and whilst this goes on, he becomes exceedingly paranoid.

And while his paranoia grows, we are privy to his outer thoughts, his preoccupation with sex, one night stands, his libido etc ( treated in the most masterly comic fashion by Moya). He is, as the Americans might say, a kind of a regular guy. Being employed by the Catholic Church in a country with varying power structures, not peculiar I think to just Latin America, he fears everyone, including his employers, the victims of his passion, his shadow, his mentors. The witch hunt of the victims he reads about, their tortures and suffering is real to him as it translates into his fear, as to what might happen in case he has understood more than he possibly could have.

But again, this is not satisfactory enough for me. In the end, he is in good exile, in civilized Spain, he has escaped, and we are told that it was quite wise, otherwise he w'd have got killed too. Was he paranoid all along, was it just nerves, a question of sensitivity? If he was in danger, then he took the right steps. If not, then is he messing with his readers?

The actions that we as readers of senselessness might think of are important after reading this novel. What then has it meant for us, this novella, albeit exquisitely written?( it is quite brilliant) We have added this to the list of novels read, words consumed, some noted in our diaries, melancholy felt, night lived. The history it charts, the blood it sprouts, the heads that roll down, body parts dismembered, where do those things exist, if at all? Why does the narrator flee, why does he grow heavy with pain, why is his mind incomplete? And I, why do I think that just reading this novel is an act of infidelity to the story inside it, that reading is as important as writing such a tract, that more important is to speak about something, even if it does not result in anything at all?

Should then, there be a natural discrepancy between the artist's own life and the fiction he writes and the reader's life and the fiction he/she reads? And should we be always reconciled to such acts?


Alok said...

I don't think he is messing with his readers. At the beginning I was reading it like one of those novels told by "unreliable" narrators and it is indeed possible to read it that way. But one has the realize the importance of the real story and real incidents that happened too and how Moya comments on those using his fiction. I don't there is any literary game going on here. That would be morally and artistically irresponsible.

I found those farcical sex scenes baffling initially but I think they work to show how he is trying to maintain his own self (his "sense") from the voices of the testimonies. The novel also captures what being in a country with such a violent and traumatic past means (there are far too many places like that in the world) when one keeps hearing those "voices" does one resist such senselessness?

Kubla Khan said...

I agree, he is not messing with us,and i wanted really to say this: that he is better than we, his readers...........he is constantly on edge. i have not been able to make the point properly.

he is a morally upright person, to some extent. reading this mess makes him fragile. i want to say that i winced at what i found in some pages.
and after that, i wanted to ask, what should the reader say or do?
what do you say?