Читать онлайн "Captives"
Автор Norman Manea
INSTEAD OF AN INTRODUCTION
The book’s three main characters are vulnerable, weak, and defeated individuals: the complete opposites of the heroes and heroines of the system’s exemplary novels. Thomas Mann’s statement in
To create this enterprise, I had to find an adequately unconventional and experimental literary form, and so I propelled these characters through spiraling, self-sufficient, minimalist narratives, each one as larval as our own lives spent pushing our ways through a police state of suspicion, reticence, and submission. I was deeply aware of the political and aesthetic risks such a book might pose: the novel offered a multidimensional contrast to the Party’s leadership’s cosmetic image of the dynamic social “progress.” The book was a challenge to authority, to myself, and to the reader, but didn’t Faulkner say that a writer should be judged by the risks he takes, even if risks are conducive to failure?
Sometimes adopting the heavily descriptive methods of the so-called nouveau roman,
The passive voice, so important to understanding the book, is not routine in English, and the novel’s “hermeticism” was an imposing constraint, whereby the object of an action is influenced or even changed, without the voice necessarily pointing to a certain subject that has caused the action. The broken characters are subdued, suspected, and distorted by obscure forces.
I strove to push the reader into a kind of implicit solidarity with my characters, through a labyrinth of twisted narratives, still organic to life in an oppressive environment. As usually happens in a suppressed society, the hidden sides of reality are decoded slowly, displaying their meaning only toward the end of the book, where — I hope — the connections and enigmas open up. Lack of freedom of choice in a country where the State is the only employer, and where citizens are owned by it, endangers
By now it must be obvious why I have been somewhat reluctant to publish this book here. Already more than twenty years have passed since my friends Barbara Epler and Griselda Ohannessian decided to bring out
Aware of the new risks this book faces, now, in my new country and in this troubled time of ours, I can only be grateful to my consistently supportive publisher, and also to Tynan Kogane, my editor, to my excellent translator, Jean Harris, and to my collaborator Carla Baricz.
Let’s also trust the patient reader, our peerless peer, who might discover in these pages a reason to think about the strange topics as well as the curious shapes of such a literary adventure.
BARD COLLEGE, AUGUST 23, 2014
LONG, INTERMITTENT THREADS of rain, broken and scattered the delayed perception of rain. His jacket is a soggy bandage for arms and shoulders. The streets meeting at the corner of the building, a likely setting for spectacular revolts to come: the young Christ committed to ironic beggary, deprived of violence, spectacular through the lack of inherent violence in his abandoned gestures — his beard grown wild, disheveled hair covering his neck and ears, the long, gathered curls lightened by gracious, sky-blue flowers — defiant in the confusion of a new day.
He stands on the street corner motionless under the rain and the scrutiny of so many eyes struck by his bizarre appearance, and his arms are as inert as his gaze, which begs for the solidarity of a smile, a flower, some signal of affirmation, or — simply, yet more incredibly — for physical violence, curses, or reprimands for his uncut hair, dirty beard, and limp body exhausted under the rain. The vagrant blankly stares at a place in the wall where a void in the bricks forms a crocodile-shaped hole. Some passerby would like to convince him that he’s mistaken: it’s just a trace of lime left by some whitewasher’s brush, a patch of lime — not a hole, by any means.
This wandering son of the earth yearns to be one with the rain, to see once more the lime spot lapped by raindrops; only later, when he had already started to forget, a little old lady beside him would recall: several years ago there really had been a hole in that exact spot on the wall, which they filled at some point. His hands shook. The horror passed through him again. Then the abandoned gaze came back: hands forgotten, mind blank, glad to know nothing, to be certain of nothing, with nothing to retain or possess, nothing but alienation and sleep, far away and alone — that’s all.
Motionless under the rain. Carved onto the street corner like a filthy inscription, with a beard and long hair, indifferent to the ironic looks and insults of all the brave and decent citizens around, spending long hours under the rain, withdrawn, somnolent, in everyone’s way: this signified more than the single, unwieldy, stammered, unsuitable phrase cast into the void of the office that he’d just left: “I can’t stand typewriters anymore.”
Of course, the beholders’ terror would have amplified his phrase:
The street corner could have been the site of a more spectacular revolt than those words left behind in that upholstered office, but the young man was already leaving, deaf and diffident, as though he’d already forgotten what he’d said.
The high iron gate strikes its latch; the narrow, serpentine, spiral staircase devours itself. Hand on the cold metal balustrade, the climber coils within himself. One flight up. Again, the steps rotate uniformly again in the shape of a fan: a point flowi ...