Un héroe discreto

Reseña de Las sombras de Quirke de Benjamin Black (Alfaguara: Buenos Aires, 2017), que salió en la diaria el 17 de abril de 2017.

Luego de terminar El mar (2005), uno de sus mejores libros, el irlandés John Banville decidió comenzar a escribir una novela negra. Pronto notó que la fluidez del género, más necesariamente centrado en el argumento y en la acción, le permitía una agilidad mayor en la escritura y, cuando apareció en la lista breve de nominados para el prestigioso premio Booker (que ganaría), envió esa nueva obra de ficción a su editor, a quien le encantó. Al año siguiente sería publicada, a pesar de las recomendaciones de los publicistas, bajo el seudónimo Benjamin Black. ¿Por qué no aprovechaba la fama de su nombre, recientemente asociado con una de las distinciones más importantes de la literatura en lengua inglesa?; ¿era un gesto de condescendencia con el género, para separar la obra “literaria” de la “de entretenimiento”, la que gana premios de la que paga las facturas?; ¿era un mero chiste, un gesto, una pose?

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Dice John Banville en su reseña Speak, Nabokov de Michael Maar (que cito según la versión de Virginia Higa aparecida en el número 4 de Review. Revista de Libros):

En la obra de Nabokov, las personas, particularmente los narradores, atraviesan con frecuencia el espejo de la realidad cotidiana hacia un mundo donde todo lo que era conocido se transforma en un instante en una revelación eufórica o, en ocasiones, en terror sobrecogedor. En Speak, Nabokov, Maar llama a este fenómeno “la experiencia medusa” tomando la idea del cuento de 1935 “Humo tórpido”, en el que el pesonaje principal, un joven soñador emigrado que vive en Berlín siente que “de la misma forma en que la luminosidad del agua y cada uno de sus movimientos atraviesan el cuerpo de la medusa, así también todo aquello atravesaba su más íntimo ser, y aquella sensación de fluidez se transfiguraba en algo parecido a una visión interna”. En esta versión del fenómeno, dice Maar, “la experiencia medusa es de armonía con el mundo y de goce panteísta”.

Hay otro modo, sin embargo, descripto en el cuento “Terror”, de 1926.

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El prodigio invisible

Reseña a Eclipse, de John Banville (Buenos Aires: Alfaguara, 2015) que salió, con algunas variaciones, el 29 de junio de 2015 en la diaria.

En Eclipse, publicada originalmente en el 2000, John Banville anticipa de algún modo lo que en 2005 haría en la novela que significara su consagración mundial como escritor, El mar, ganadora del premio Booker. De un intenso lirismo (que Damià Alou intenta sin demasiado éxito traspasar al español), con largas parrafadas descriptivas y pocos diálogos, Eclipse es, además, la primera novela de la trilogía de Cleave, compuesta por Shroud (de 2002) y Ancient Light (de 2012), que tienen como centro al actor Alex y a su hija Cass Cleave. Todo lo que luego tendrá su culminación en El mar está en Eclipse de forma seminal. Los paralelismos son incluso argumentales: un hombre que ha negado su origen regresa a una casa de su niñez, una vieja casa de inquilinos venida a menos, rodeada por la muerte. Como Persona (la película de Ingmar Bergman de 1966), Eclipse comienza con un actor que ha quedado repentinamente mudo en medio de una representación. A partir de ese silencio y su viaje introspectivo (y al pasado), se abre un diálogo interno, en referencia a extraños personajes que invaden la anhelada soledad, y un viaje que es de desenmascaramiento.

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Muerte de una gaviota

There is pandemonium among the seagulls, great events seem to be taking place. Before my arrival a flock of them had come in from the sea and settled on the house, building their nests in the chimneys and the valley of the roof. Why they chose this spot I do not know; perhaps they liked the calm and quiet of our little square. They are anything but calm themselves. From earliest morning the sky is filled with their tumult. They clamour and shriek and make an angry rattling with beaks agape. Their favourite noise, however, is a staccato yacking, like a hyena’s laugh or baboon’s hoot, that decelerates gradually while simultaneously rising in pitch. Even at night they are restless, I hear them flopping about on the roof, grumbling and threatening each other. At dawn every day they set up a deafening racket. Why such uproar? Surely the mating season is well over—certainly there are young already being taught to fly, ugly, awkward, dun-coloured things that waddle to the edge of the roof and perch there, peering down at the drop and swallowing hard, or looking all about with a show of unconcern, before launching themselves out shakily on to the air currents. At certain times their elders all together will take to the sky and wheel and wheel in majestic slow circles above the house, screaming, whether in panic or wild exultation it is impossible to know.

Yesterday I looked up from where I was sitting and saw one of the adults standing outside on the window sill. I am always startled by the great size of these birds when seen up close. They are so menacingly graceful in flight, yet when they land they become sadly comical, perched on their spindly legs and ridiculous flat feet, like the botched prototype of some far more handsome, far more well-fashioned species. This one just stood there beyond the glass, doing nothing except opening wide its beak in what seemed a yawn or a soundless cry. Curious, I put down my book and went outside. The bird did not fly away at my approach, but held its place, shifting ponderously from foot to foot and regarding me with wary deprecation out of one large, pale, lustrous eye. I saw at once what the matter was: on the ground below the window sill a dead fledgeling lay. It must have fallen from the roof, or failed in flight and plummeted to earth and broken its neck. Its look was glazed already, its plumage dulled. The parent, for I have no doubt that is what it was, made its beak gape again in that odd way, with no sound. It might have been a threat, to warn me off, but I am inclined to believe it was a sign of distress. Even seagulls must have expressions of sorrow or of joy recognisable at least to their fellows. Probably they see our visages as just as blank and inexpressive as theirs seem to us. A man numb with inexplicable misery, for instance, I am sure to them would be merely another dead-eyed dullard gazing pitilessly upon a scene of incommensurable loss. The bird was male, I think; I think, yes, a father.

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Los nombres

At first it had no name. It was the thing itself, the vivid thing. It was his friend. On windy days it danced, demented, waving wild arms, or in the silence of evening drowsed and dreamed, swaying in the blue, the goldeny air. Even at night it did not go away. Wrapped in his truckle bed, he could hear it stirring darkly outside in the dark, all the long night long. There were others, nearer to him, more vivid still than this, they came and went, talking, but they were wholly familiar, almost a part of himself, while it, steadfast and aloof, belonged to the mysterious outside, to the wind and the weather and the goldeny blue air. It was a part of the world, and yet it was his friend.

Look, Nicolas, look! See the big tree!

Tree. That was its name. And also: the linden. They were nice words. He had known them a long time before he knew what they meant. They did not mean themselves, they were nothing in themselves, they meant the dancing singing thing outside. In wind, in silence, at night, in the changing air, it changed and yet was change-lessly the tree, the linden tree. That was strange.

Everything had a name, but although every name was nothing without the thing named, the thing cared nothing for its name, had no need of a name, and was itself only. And then there were the names that signified no substantial thing, as linden and tree signified that dark dancer. His mother asked him who did he love the best. Love did not dance, nor tap the window with frantic fingers, love had no leafy arms to shake, yet when she spoke that name that named nothing, some impalpable but real thing within him responded as if to a summons, as if it had heard its name spoken. That was very strange.

He soon forgot about these enigmatic matters, and learned to talk as others talked, full of conviction, unquestioningly.

The sky is blue, the sun is gold, the linden tree is green. Day is light, it ends, night falls, and then it is dark. You sleep, and in the morning wake again. But a day will come when you will not wake. That is death. Death is sad. Sadness is what happiness is not. And so on. How simple it all was, after all! There was no need even to think about it. He had only to be, and life would do the rest, would send day to follow day until there were no days left, for him, and then he would go to Heaven and be an angel. Hell was under the ground.

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