Wednesday, May 13, 2009

To Be Kindly

The immediate benefit of reading Vilnius Poker by Ricardas Gavelis is exploring and anticipating its rich layers, its coy use of convention only to find that the narrative has recoiled off in an unexpected direction. The novel begins with all the trappings of dystopian literature, as well as the more diabolical aspects of the genre, where, much like The Master and Margarita and Mailer's clumsy Castle in the Wood, supernatural evil is revealed beyond the all-too-real horrors of the 20th Century. We are led to believe that the protagonist, through his scholarly acumen, has discovered and explored a hidden, likewise demonic, reality. As the reader adjusts his expectations to these parameters, we then discover that not only is the narrator unreliable, he is a gulag survivor and has suffered greatly, to such an extent, we soon learn, that not only is his sense of reality damaged, but events of his personal past flow into his present experience and are all likewise disaffected by the gruelling history of Lithuania as a whole.

Matters become all the more enhanced as the reader grows accustomed to the derangement. The protagonist praises his good friend Gediminias early in the novel, the two unexpectedly encounter one another all over Vilinius. He appears alternately randy and remorseful and then suddenly, he is imagined to be dead. It is perhaps pivotal to know that Gediminias is also the name of Lithuania's famed pagan ruler of the 14th Century. Is it one and the same, all a hallucination? Pithy conversations drift to the fate of this Baltic state, it being approximate in size and population to Ireland. Just as quickly, the novel skips over the predictability of a lament against social realism. The Baltics have been fucked with much more facility and changing partners than any made for TV of the Black Book of Communism.

I look forward to further dispatches.


Blogger the feral professor said...

Even if called "clumsy" did you actually make a comparison - even if by conjunction and juxtaposition - of "The Master and" and "Castle in the Forest" ("Forest" yes?)? Where's the Big Dipper putting it on top of Shane's face guarding?

1:02 AM  
Blogger jon faith said...

I was greeted midday by this geyser of quotation marks, perhaps an offhand homage to Rush Limbaugh, be he Troubled Asset or not.

I am guilty of having dashed off an idea for a review of the novel's unexpected protean unfolding and placing it in the draft folder. I did situate Mailer's novel (which I incorrectly titled from recall, thank you for the correction) and hoped to polish such last night but found no real objections to publishing it as is. Yes sir, I did place Bulgakov in a ruminative pen with Mailer's Failure. I find both to be a similar exploration of a neo-gothic theme but with distance between in achievement measuring in leagues.

6:05 PM  

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