Monday, October 31, 2011

Le Monde 100: Man's Fate

Unless one has a laser-sharp aesthetic sensibility or a unwavering passion from youth, it may be hard for most to realize who it is that they really are.

To say "really are," though, means what?

It's not like one has a mental displacement in the sci-fi sense, where one questions who they are in the midst of being cloned or being a clone or having their brain downloaded into another body or having one's memories erased by a malicious alien race and stranded on a distant moon to fend for one's self while unlocking the mystery of their origins or in the sense of the self-aware brain floating in a tank.

In reality, most people develop a sense of their need for an identity in an effort to put purpose in their life. They are in a sense looking to create the story arc that their life will traverse. This usually happens after high school, whether it's the stereotypical backpack across Europe to "find" ones self or in the listless struggle to find ones major in college.
Some figure themselves out fairly early and some never do or later in life.

Being creative is usually the hardest with the big issues as communicating is best done through a clear and focused detail and building a purpose is huge.

What is amazing about Man's Fate is the way some of character's purposes become clear through single moments in time that open their value system up for the rest of their lives.

Andre Malreaux, the author, put the conflict as centered on the massacre of Communists in 1927 by Chang-Kai-Shek, which was underpinned by the abandonment of those Communists by Stalin in Moscow. When you build your identity as a political revolutionary that is for the people, how do you process that betrayal to your body as well as your purpose? Furthermore, how do you reconcile fighting for esoteric concepts with the individual experience of killing a man?

The book opens with a man finding his purpose and identity but its not what he expected. He must creep in to a man's bedroom and assasinate him in his sleep, which he does successfully. But because he has such an intimate experience with death, his self view changes from a revolutionary to a murderer. As he cannot undo the killing, he becomes obsessed with his own death and now views every killing as the crafting of a relationship with another human just as one does in life.

Man's Fate was picked for Le Monde 100 due to the lasting impression it made on the readers as were all the selections. I can definitely see why, knowing The transformation of ones life course is lurking around an unknown corner waiting to point you in a new direction.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Le Monde 100: Journey to the End of the Night

You can just feel the cynicism steaming off of him.
Patriotism is a disease and so is everything else.

That's the basic message I get from Louis-Ferdinand Celine's Journey to the End of the Night.

Oh, there is nothing that gets this guy's dander up than seeing people operate in a happy little bubble. This includes doing anything that may give someone a sense of purpose down to the "enjoyment" of sexual relations.
It's all just misery on the long slow march to death. But it pushes him to go and see something different all over the world in an effort to quench his bad attitude. He goes from a soldier in the war to an African colonist to a New York indigent to a factory worker in Detroit to graduating from medical school and settling into a small village practice in search of a context that makes sense. But, you come to ask yourself, is it to quench his negative attitude or to fuel it?

There is something really fun about Celine's misanthropy. His black and white thinking pushes him to write in huge hyperboles and puts a sense of the unpredictable in all his sentences. He wallows in irony and his writing is exciting for it.

How can you not love a book that includes a grandmother at the end of her life with nothing to live for who lives at the end of the garden who transforms into a powerful beast of purpose when she realizes that her son and daughter-in-law have tried to kill her by putting a bomb in her rabbit hutch? Her glee at being murdered is weirdly life-affirming.

Celine is the father of all contemporary writing in my opinion. If you like Jonathan Ames, Mil Millington, Tibor Fischer, or Martin Amis, you will recognize the tempo and cadence of Celine's writing. Tibor Fischer, I just found out, titled his book Journey to the End of the Room, a book about a woman who loves to travel but hates leaving the house,  in a nod to Celine.

Although, I think this book is fantastic, I can NOT get on board with the fact that Celine went on to publish a series of anti-Semetic pamphlets in the 1940's. He thought Hitler was too much of a "Jew." It seems to be so unnecessarily  purposeful for someone so nihilistic.

And now I feel like those punk rock purists who  have to explain why they have the first Skrewdriver album.