петък, 28 февруари 2014 г.

Reflections on the Jack Harte’s novel Reflections in a Tar-Barrel, Scotus Press, 2008

Beyond the Walls of the Tar-Barrel
Nikolay Todorov

The Existence as Contemplation

The poetic beginning of Jack Harte’s novel gives expression to a life of an individual who has been cast away from the community; an individual with a separate, complete personality, who is capable of complicated and even at times paradoxical internal monologues. Despite the slight contradiction with the real story developing in the readers eyes (how is a person with such deformities capable of a so profound and at the same time both poetic and crude discourse), the novel grabs the attention with its well paced language and short and lapidary sentences and demonstrates the writer’s storytelling abilities (and unorthodoxy). At some points it seems that the author is even capable of observing himself from the outside.

The Rebelling Kind

The translation correctly transmits the intonation of the rebel. No norms, authorities are allowed even in the last moment of someone’s life, even in something like a ‘rite of passage’; at least this is the direction in which the characters head; there is no more space even for the Creator: it turns out that the main character is rebelling also against the Christian God and the idea of Him. The main reason is nevertheless a quite classical one ever since David Hume and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz: what is generally considered as injustice and evil and why does it exist if God is omnipotent. But although the novel is anticlerical as well, it is not antireligious (remember the passages of peace and love associated with the presence of the Virgin Mary). The ‘rebellion passages’ are related with the personal fight against convention, against the Wall of Life and the Wall of Death.

Existentialism perhaps?

At some unspecified point, the novel starts to sound like an existentialist work (the hostile world with its vastness and so on), or perhaps a work influenced by the theories of Antonin Artaud and Boris Vian about violence and art. Nevertheless the character is not completely alone. His interior monologue which seldom reaches the outer audience is directed to himself. The rest of the world seems if not chaotic, at least vulgar at many moments, except for a cousin, a mother, a life-time teacher, a friend and a big group of mostly anonymous followers. (As the translator of the novel into Bulgarian, Mr. Vergil Nemchev correctly noted: ‘The world does not allow the authenticity of the character. (...) Lofty is able to communicate only when he is a socially acceptable figure.’)

Coup de chance

The Calvinist notion that the one who follows his conscience and tries to do good will be paid for what he has done, comes true. The main character is not able to read, write and even talk (many times he gets stuck into a kind of a dystopian primary language) but he almost turns into a saint in the classical Biblical meaning of the word – a prophet taken for mad who belongs to another world and could easily be condemned and burnt on the stake. The religious feeling turns out impossible to resist to and despite his negative attitude, it leads Lofty to do good and to recover his humbleness, although his truck turns into a temple (and at some point literary crashes down).

Religiosity with a Twist

Finally, the Manichean believes appear and reaffirm themselves again: that the body and the spirit take equal parts of us, of the world and even of God. There is a kind of tradition in this kind of understandings among the English intellectuals, for example the notorious science fiction and dystopian writer Herbert George Wells. The physical beauty and the carnal passion lead Lofty to rediscover the richness of the world and to start ‘bringing beauty to the world’. The ‘saint’ and the ‘prostitute’, the ‘temple’ and the ‘brothel’, the ‘heavenly’ and the ‘earthly’ are now all situated on equal grounds. At some point even God is equalized with the Devil. And a challenge is thrown against Him from the point of the almighty chaos (or chance) not afraid to be ‘stoned to death’ like Mr. Jon McCreedy noticed). Does he also feel hope and desperation; is he also a victim of Fate (for example like the ancient Greek gods)? Is there a betrayal to the human being? Is life so elusive and futile? There is a chaos at the beginning and at the end, though not so vain and hopeless.
„Размишления в катраненото буре“ от Джак Харт

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