Week 12: Fireworks

by Maria Bustillos

I don’t know about you guys, but I crawled across the finish line of The Part About the Crimes in a state of nervous exhaustion.  Even though I found it to be the strongest section of the four, so far, in terms of articulating a different and true way to look at the world (something a novel has achieved only a few times, in my own reading life,) and to think about our own part in it (about which, more anon.)  So emerged into The Part About Archimboldi to find it bursting all around us like a shower of fireworks, as if we’d been dropped suddenly into into the middle of a Russian novel like The Master and Margarita, so full of incident, of sensation–the imagination in this is torrential, suddenly so rich, powerful and poetic.

I don’t know how I will be feeling at the end, but right now my earlier impression that we begin at a great remove from reality and move slowly closer in has only intensified.  What I didn’t realize, though, was this:  we would go closer and closer to the truth, and finally enter deep inside a human mind to touch the realest reality that there is.

We begin with the critics, and the sort of intellectual miasma they are in is like a veil between themselves and the world; it hampers their ability to experience anything or even observe it clearly.  They’re still human, but they’re lost.

Then we move to Amalfitano, whose grasp of affairs though closer than that of the critics is also very much hampered by convention, by the blindness brought on by being a book of logic or poetical mathematics strung out on a clothesline, the plaything of the elements.

Then Fate, a man who is drawn, too, to learn about what things are really like, far more so than Amalfitano; yet his fleshliness and creatureliness circumscribe his chances of reaching the awareness he seeks.  His desire for Rosa at least is real, and creates a real desire to deliver her, and he manages this, or appears to have managed it so far.  This is a sort of “pragmatic” level of awareness that many of us live at; to survive, to flee danger, to know something about the world but when it should threaten something we love, our curiosity is at an end and our desire to get on a plane overtakes it at once.

The crimes plunge us headlong into ‘the oasis of horror.’  That is to say, whatever we may feel about what is going on in Santa Teresa, it’s the result of human struggle, desire, real passions.  It’s not “false” or “wrong.”  It’s the most inconvenient truth there is.  These are true things being described to us, things that have been poeticized and repeated over and over like a rosary of pain and death, to freak you out, to bore you and make you crazy, to make you look in the mirror of what it is to be human.  We can’t deny that this is our legacy, this bloody mess we have always either been in, or hiding ourselves away from.  Those who are caught up in the tangle of influence, corruption and evil that surrounds the crimes are face to face with it, unhindered by the “rules” of law or propriety, conscience or religious scruple; this is the raw face of human nature, and you’ve been forced to regard it.

Now we reach the tale of Hans Reiter, a man who has gone completely his own way from the first instant of his life, practically.  He is the lone diver, separate from all others; he is completely detached and his inner life is the opposite of the critics’; it’s the real life of the mind that is like a compositional tool for reality, that is poetic also, and wild and unconstrained, that takes life as found, alone … that dives to the bottom of the sea.

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4 Responses to “Week 12: Fireworks”

  • Comment from Ben

    General Entrescu’s commentary on the unpredictable nature of a person’s legacy spoke to the limited way in which people perceive reality. The discussion begins on p. 685 with the participants each offering their own theories on the reality behind the story of Count Dracula. On p. 686, Gen. Entrescu concludes: “… in a way having an idea of the world is easy, everybody has one, generally an idea restricted to one’s village, bound to the land, to the tangible and mediocre things before one’s eyes, and this idea of the world, petty, limited, crusted with the grime of the familiar, tends to persist and acquire authority and eloquence with the passage of time.” Maybe each of the previous parts illustrates visions of the world that are “petty, limited, crusted with the grime of the familiar,” but each in its own way?

    By the way, while I have not been contributing for the last several weeks, I’ve been reading everyone’s commentary with great interest. I got bogged down in the Part About the Crimes. I found that reading only a few pages a day drained it of its momentum. The reading experience became much more satisfying once I committed myself to pushing through more quickly.

    • Comment from Maria Bustillos

      Ben, that is a splendid observation. I think a huge part of what’s being said is about the limitation, each person’s vision “crusted with the grime of the familiar,” this tallies so exactly with my own reading.

      Thank you so much for this. Please post more!! (I wish were were all in a cafe, that would be the best thing.)

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