Monday, April 16, 2007

The book reviewer

In the morning he read. This meant that he started on the first page and finished on the last. He was not a skimmer or a sniffer; he read meticulously, as if, swimming, he were being filmed in slow motion. The text swept him away and consumed him — he was like a man (the man in the bedclothes in his father's tale) drawn down by an undertow. Slowly, slowly, the imaginary cinema recorded his heavy resisting gulps. Reading was as exhausting to him as the long, weighted strokes of a drowning man. He gave it all his power. Then he cooked himself a bowl of farina and fell into the wilderness of his quilt.

When he woke at seven into full blackness of night, he felt oddly fat — he was sated with his idea, he understood what he thought. He sat down immediately to his review. He wrote it straight off, a furnace burning fat. It was as if his pen, sputtering along the line of rapid letters it ignited, flung out haloes of hot grease. The air brightened, than charred. He was very quick now, he was encyclopedic, he was in a crisis of inundation. He drove through all the caged hypotheses of his author — some were overt and paced behind bars, others were camouflaged, dappled; he was a dervish, he penetrated everything. When he was within sight of conquest he began to fuzz over with vertigo; he was a little frightened of all he knew. A greased beak tore him off his accustomed ledge and brought him to a high place beyond his control. Something happened in him while he slept. It was not the sleep of refreshment or restoration. He had no dreams. Afterward his lids clicked open like a marionette's and he saw: what he saw, before he had formulated even a word of it, was his finished work. He saw it as a kind of vessel, curved, polished, hollowed out. In its cup lay an alabaster egg with a single glittering spot; no, not an egg; a globe, marvelously round. An eye. A human eye: his own; and then not his own. His father's murdered eye.

He is Lars Andemening (fictional), book reviewer for a Stockholm newspaper. His father, allegedly, is the Polish writer Bruno Schulz (historical).

The book is The Messiah of Stockholm, by Cynthia Ozick, The Messiah being the legendary novel Schulz had reportedly been working on before he was shot by Nazis in 1942, no trace of which was ever found.

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