Monday, October 07, 2013

The Fatal Vision

a great novella by John Howard:

  1. The Fatal Vision – pages 96 – 125
    “There were times when he seemed to be walking along a canyon-like street, its smooth bare sides forming into a the stark cubes and blocks of buildings and similar intersecting avenues.”
    Of novella length, this work takes place in the same Romanian genius tempus as ‘The Flowering Wound’, with the borderline machinations of geo-politics and high-level conspiracies and ratcheting human architecture, all as ignited by the start of Hitler’s war. This is skilfully carried by the naggingly 1940s fractured way (cf ‘The Heat of the Day’ by Elizabeth Bowen) within a bifurcated story surrounding the work and personal relationships of a Professor of Architecture. Bifurcated (or torn) by two audit trails of narration, with differing degrees of narrative reliability or collusion with the reader, one audit trail being about the professor from a seemingly independent stance, the other from a first person singular narration by one of the professor’s students who seems to be stalking him. This is further hologrammatised, as it were, by the professor’s own extrapolations of imaginary architecture. The prose style, for me, has many wonderfully adumbrated images caught up in this history-trawling net I have just tried to describe above, images that seem to convey more about history than history itself. Seems also, so far, to encapsulate Howard’s work, as if I have been striving for this point since reading ‘The Silver Voices’ a few years ago. Abstractions. Ragged frontiers. Flying from the ground. Spies seeking spies, seekers seeking seekers. The loss of something in one’s self. “There was something missing, as if sliced away, stolen by an invisible flensing hand.” Or a genre of literature based on a stylised Berlin Wall as an archetype that escaped Jung’s trawling-net of collective unconscious. “…the ground fell away sharply to where the wall had been pierced to make room for Queen Elizabeth Square.”
  2. The Fatal Vision – pages 125 – 158
    That fatal vision – partly the Fate of that ‘dreamy white city’ Howardian vision, partly a Fatality to the Vitals that history threatens any who travel back to live it for real, partly both those two meanings together – and “We debated and argued; dividing into rival factions that merged and split again”, as in all wars, not only in this one … and to be “on easy speaking terms with the future”, one needs to be on easy speaking terms with the past, too. The ultimate dichotomy of reactionary and revolutionary.
    I take some of this structure of fiction away with me from the novella, but also something perhaps more personal: The professor’s secret apartment struck me forcibly as my own fiction work whereto I escape much to the ignoring or bemusement of those around me in real life, but above all it is my own literary hologrammatisation via ‘gestalt real-time reviewing’ of which the Process is identical to its Noumenon where I feel myself living most of the time with, say, some of the stairways not leading to the correct corridors (as in the environs of the Professor’s ‘secret’ apartment), instead of where I actually live or where people think they see me living. But with the Professor he had someone within the actual world, someone sufficiently neutral, with a grievance as well as a fascination for the Professor, someone who saw him in his secret apartment, so it must have existed in the actual world, too. A tear or rip in the fabric of self, mended like a single shoe’s two leather flaps across the tongue – with laces.
    History has such secret apartments, too, that Howard has opened up for us. Time travel for real.
    You will perhaps find your own secret apartment or fatal vision within the apartments or ‘spatial dimensions’ of this great book, your secret apartment or fatal vision quite different from mine. 
    “…like beautiful music playing too low to hear but which could be felt in the depths of the heart.”

No comments: