Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Interrogation / J. M. G. Le Clézio

No shepherd and one herd! Everybody wants the same, everybody is the same: whoever feels different goes voluntarily into a madhouse.
—Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra (W. Kaufmann, Trans.)

"So far as I’m concerned the earth has turned into a sort of chaos… I’m afraid the hill may turn into a kind of volcano… Or that the polar ice may melt, which would raise the level of the sea and swallow me. I’m afraid of the people on the beach, BELOW. The sand is changing into quicksands, the sun into a spider and the children into shrimps."
His searching gaze penetrated the smallest concavities, the folds of skin or plumage, the scales, the fluffy hairs that sheltered the visibly ignoble slumbers of balls of black hair, masses of flabby cartilage, dusty membranes, red annulations, skin that was cracked and split like a square of earth. He stripped the gardens of their grass, dived head-first into mud, devoured humus voraciously, crawled along burrows at a depth of twelve yards, pawed a new, kindred body borne from the putrefied corpse of a field-mouse. With his mouth drawn down between his shoulders he pushed forward his eyes, his two big, round eyes, gently, with a thousand precautions, waiting for a kind of electric shock that would contract his skin, activate the ganglions that propelled him, and throw the rings of his body against one another like copper bracelets, with a faint tinkle, when once he had become subterranean, coiled, gelatinous -- yes, the one and only real, tenebrous earthworm....suddenly melting, boiling, or flowing beneath his feet. The trees grew excited and gave off poisonous vapours. The sea began to swell, devoured the narrow grey strip of beach and then rose, rose to attack the hill, to drown him, to numb him, to swallow him up in its dirty waves. He could feel the fossilized monsters coming to birth somewhere, prowling round the villa, the joints of their huge feet cracking. His fear grew, invincible, imagination and frenzy could not be checked; even human beings become hostile, barbarous, their limbs sprouted wool, their heads shrank, and they advanced in serried ranks over the countryside, cannibalistic, cowardly or ferocious. The moths flung themselves on him, biting him with their mandibles, wrapping him in the silky veil of their hairy wings. From the pools there rose an armoured nation of parasites or shrimps, of abrupt, mysterious crustaceans, hungering to tear off shreds of his flesh. The beaches were covered with strange creatures who had come there, accompanied by their young, to await no one knew what; animals prowled along the roads, growling and squealing, curious parti-coloured animals whose shells glistened in the sunshine. Everything was suddenly in motion, with an intense, intestinal, concentrated life, heavy and incongruous as a kind of submarine vegetation. While this was going on he drew back into his corner, ready to spring out and defend himself pending the final assault that would leave him the prey of these creatures…

Le Clézio, in his incredibly unnecessary foreword, attempts to sidestep criticism by considering The Interrogation “too mannered and wordy; its style ranges from para-realistic dialogue to pedantically aphoristic bombast.” This self-consciousness makes me wonder if Le Clézio was simply using Adam as a mouthpiece when he had him say:
I know we’re more or less literary, but it won’t do any longer. I’m really tired of -- It’s bound to happen, because one reads too much. One feels obliged to put everything forward in a perfect form. One always feels called upon to illustrate the abstract idea by an example of the latest craze, rather fashionable, indecent if possible, and above all -- and above all, quite unconnected with the question. Good Lord, how phoney it all is! It stinks of fake lyricism, memories, childhood, psychoanalysis, the springtime of life and the history of the Christian religion.
Le Clézio wishes for The Interrogation to be taken as a “complete fiction, interesting only in so far as it produces a kind of repercussion (however briefly) on the reader’s mind.” Does he succeed? If by “complete fiction” he means a kind of metafictional narrative that contradicts convention, confounds expectation, a fiction that distances the reader from the text, a text that draws attention to itself as a construction, then the answer is yes. But The Interrogation is much more than that. The “repercussions” on the mind are much stronger than that. Le Clézio’s juggling of the story’s action with beautifully rendered prose, fantastic imagery, acerbic dialogue, and especially its excavation of a deranged mind, distinguishes his novel not only as an embryonic curiosity of an elder craftsman of literature, but a fascinating work in itself.
The Interrogation  by J.M.G. Le Clézio, translated by Daphne Woodward
Simon & Schuster
ISBN-13: 978-1439149188
256 pages


Bob Bushell said...

Those are beautiful, the colouring of each is superb, thanks Daliana.

Fram Actual said...

The photographs make me think of Federico Fellini's films, the words as descendants of Dante Alighieri's visions and Franz Kafka's nightmares. Maybe, a few others, as well.

Europeans, in a general artistic sense, approach a surreal level Americans might never achieve. Europeans have lived too long, seen too much and, in nationalistic frenzies, killed each other too many times in ridiculous, senseless slaughters. But, in a way, Europeans might never (this is the antithesis) reach absolute artistic maturity because they invent new methods to walk in circles. I will argue the point with anyone.

No matter, you have produced a post both thoughtful and provocative, Daliana, and illustrated it in a stunning manner with your photographs. The post is a bit frightening, actually.

P.S. You have made me curious; I need to look more closely at J.M.G. Le Clézio ....