Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Sisyphean Orpheus

The Sisyphean Orpheus

Initially, I believed that my reading of John Fowles’ “The Magus” occurred at an inopportune time during my life, the reason for which I searched for purification from my excessive identification with its themes and blurred reality by reading what turned out to be a more surrealistic novel: Haruki Murakami’s “The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.” As I read the latter book, it was difficult for me to avoid pondering on the interrelatedness of both novels and, indeed, the messages that they seemed to provide. Reading, of course, is invariably a subjective endeavor. As such, I slowly came to the discernment that my hitherto interpretations ensued from the events unfolding in my life at the time.

It was then that I realized that there could not have been a better time to have read the novels, in such particular order.

My biggest disappointment with “The Magus” was its open end. Fowles was heavily criticized for this. Readers even contacted him demanding a clear resolution, which he provided according to their expectations.
I would have done the same, had he still been alive, but as my reading of “The Wind-up Bird Chronicle” continued I began to pay closer attention to my impulses. That is, although novels always face open interpretations, I had been presented with the ultimate example of it and was not taking advantage of the opportunity. After a few days of critical introspection, I understood that my interaction with the narrative represented a parallel process with the narrative of my life. As such, I so badly wanted a clear resolution in the novel because I needed a prompt resolution to the current episode of my life. Indeed, in spite of the novel’s existentialist and psychoanalytic tour de force, the last sentence was the message that I least wanted to hear: cras amet qui numquam amavit quique amavit cras amet (Tomorrow let him love, who has never loved; he who has loved, let him love tomorrow). These are the opening lines of a Latin lyric entitled “The Vigil of Venus.”

Opening lines, as if symbolizing that the beginning is always near, always present, especially for love?

Rubbish, I thought.

Yet, love I suffered, of the unrequited kind, the reason for my bitterness.

It can be argued that each novel deals with the possibility of a second chance in love through a particular adaptation of the Orphic myth. The case of Murakami is perhaps the clearest, as his protagonist, Toru Okada, descends into a well and the realms of his dreams in an attempt to bring back her Eurydice, Kumiko Okada. Fowles seems to have provided a twist to the myth.
Nicholas Urfe, his protagonist, flies from the barbarism of his western consciousness to a distant Greek island, refusing to accept a second chance with her Alison Kelly and finds himself playing an infernal god-game after which he discovers to have been destined to remain with her. In the end, at least through my heavily prejudiced interpretation, reunification is not the most important matter. And neither is the learning process. The significant moral of both stories is that, perhaps even in the most adverse of situations, both men appear to learn little from their experiences.

Now, that is a lesson from which to learn

(The cathartic outcome of this experience was a short story, “The Black-eyed Beast,” which I will soon upload to this blog).


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