Sunday, March 24, 2024

Time drips off our bodies

She says I'm like those large, solitary rocks in southern Patagonia, pieces of world left over after creation, isolated and exposed to every element. No one knows where they came from. Not even they understand how they're still standing and why they never break down.

This is why she calls her Boulder. 

Boulder, by Eva Baltasar, was shortlisted for the 2023 International Booker. The cover is stunning. Weirdly, I spotted this book at a local magazine chain store, which sells only a few dozen titles in English. So I was inspired to finally check it out.

Highly poetic. It feels wrought. A narrator whom I found entirely unsympathetic; she's a bit of a selfish dick, really. 

The eponymous Boulder, a loner, a literal drifter, a merchant ship worker. 

An old woman passes me the bottle with a smile in each eye and a toothless grin. I take it and drink. I love this place, thee narrow black eyes that neither desire me not reject me, this fabulous freedom.

But she meets Samsa and falls in love.

Time drips off our bodies, trickles between our legs, we tack it to the walls.

They move to Reykjavik and buy a house. (But they could've lived anywhere. Icelandishness does not really play into this novel, except for the narrator observing that "Icelanders are slaves to biology, breeders," which I'm not convinced it true.)

Boulder is about a relationship that changes when prospective parenthood enters the equation, and then some more with an actual baby.

It's Samsa who's desperate to have a child. Boulder acquiesces, but she is increasingly at a remove from Samsa, even while watching her with desire.

She's having an Italian morning, her body is soft and full, she smells like fresh bread, like a sponge left in the sun, like tomato plants.

Although Boulder depicts a same-sex relationship, the challenges, particularly those of physical intimacy, are typical of any marriage. (I'm not sure what makes this an "incisive story of queer love" other than it's like any other kind of love?)

It vividly brought back to me the anger, exhaustion, resentment of the early years of motherhood, with all the negativity stemming from and directed back at my (now ex) partner. I mean, I relate to the biological mother in this story, and I'm raging at the narrator for closing themself off, for making excuses, for being self-centred and weak (and in my case, I believe, ultimately inconsequential).

I realize there's a living thing seated inside me; in fact it's lounging around and whistling as it watches the sky slowly descend as if dancing. I'm always surprised by the lack of guilt in that place where love, which always pushes outward, meets solitude, which always pulls inward. My love doesn't leave with Samsa, but it isn't part of me either. It belongs to desire. 

Although the novel clearly tapped into a particular point in my past experience, this style of writing (imagine a poetry reading; hear the affectation and portentousness) is not my cup of tea. I can't think of any individuals to whom I'd recommend this book, but on the other hand it could make for a rich bookclub discussion. 


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