Darkmans (英語) ペーパーバック – 2007/10/1
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From the award-winning author of `Clear `comes an epic novel of startling originality.If History is just a sick joke which keeps on repeating itself, then who exactly might be telling it, and why? Could it be John Scogin, Edward IV's infamous court jester, whose favourite pastime was to burn people alive - for a laugh? Or could it be Andrew Boarde, Henry VIII's physician, who kindly wrote John Scogin's biography? Or could it be a tiny Kurd called Gaffar whose days are blighted by an unspeakable terror of - uh - salad? Or a beautiful, bulimic harpy with ridiculously weak bones? Or a man who guards Beckley Woods with a Samurai sword and a pregnant terrier?`Darkmans' is a very modern book, set in Ashford (a ridiculously modern town), about two very old-fashioned subjects: love and jealousy. It's also a book about invasion, obsession, displacement and possession, about comedy, art, prescription drugs and chiropody. And the main character? The past, which creeps up on the present and whispers something quite dark - quite unspeakable - into its ear.`Darkmans' is the third of Nicola Barker's visionary narratives of the Thames Gateway. Following on from `Wide Open' (winner Dublin IMPAC award 2000) and `Behindlings' it confirms Nicola Barker as one of Britain's most original and exciting literary talents.
'When a new novel by Nicola Barker arrives, there is a host of reasons to break into a smile. Chief among them is that she is one of the most exhilarating, audacious and, for want of a better word, ballsy writers of her generation. And, in a publishing terrain that often inhibits ambition and promotes homogeneity, there is nobody writing quite like her.' Alex Clark, Observer'Inventive, witty and well staged.' Hugo Barnacle, Sunday Times'There is a constant sense she might launch us into the minds of one of her psychotics and leave us there, and this gives her books a fearsome energy.' Independent'Rich, sensual, almost synaesthetic powers of description and association.' Times Literary Supplement'Each of her works brims with electricity, energy and invention, with rude humour, originality and contrariness. Who else but Barker would produce an 838-page epic with little describable plot, taking place over just a few days and set in - wait for it - Ashford? For that's what "Darkmans" is, and it is phenomenally good. Barker is a great, restless novelist, and "Darkmans" is a great restless novel. At the end of 838 blinding, High-octane pages, I was bereft that there weren't 838 more.' Patrick Ness, Guardian'An idiosyncratic, witty and utterly original vision of Albion.' Independent'Barker is an extraordinary writer, we're lucky to be alive at the same time as her. She's one of the few people who can put the words "novel" and "form" together and make something we haven't caught up with yet, that's completely new. She's a glorious writer. I hope she wins the Booker Prize.' The Scotsman商品の説明をすべて表示する
Barker's way with words, her characterizations, her elusivity as regards past and present, shared reality and nuttiness, her skills at dialogue and her sense of humour, are topnotch. Her ability to set a scene and to capitalize on it to keep the work moving forward is remarkable. We want to know what's going to happen, we want a denouement, we want all to be tidily tied together. We are deprived of this wish, as life so deprives us: so does Darkmans mirror our life. And just as the real world sets forth coincidences, so does Darkmans.
Logic falters in the face of the present, stories are made of what we hope happened, or what SHOULD happen. Barker doesn't let us off that easily. Readers are left confused and frustrated, at least in part. Darkmans hosts a hundred characters, of which none, after we close the back cover, can we conclude lived a life fantastic. Some, in fact, were left to hang far before that, and the few false notes in Darkmans may be the treatment of some of the minor figures: in a weft that required so many threads, occasionally a few will snarl the weave.
Other criticisms? The end. There's no ease in the finish. Was Barker rushed by her publisher? It is a long work, surely. Without giving anything away, the last 20 pages involves stop and go traffic, accidents, a sort of perpetuum mobile that made me wonder whether Barker's editor had pushed her too hard to finish.
Ostensibly, the work is set in the UK of a few years ago. Ostensibly, there are references to Edward IV's jester, John Scoggin, to schizophrenia, and to fatal attractions. What of it? Barker's way with words are such that you would be intrigued were she to write a history of laundry soap.
Reader, if you like Pynchon, or Murakami, Vollman, or even Elias Canetti, you will want to read Darkmans. If you prefer uncertainty to a tidy settlement, if you are comfortable with implication and in the drawing of only partial conclusion, in short, if you are looking for a modern work that requires you to bright forth your own, and then withdraw your ideas on character, direction, and end, than you will want to read Darkmans. Having just done so, I envy you the opportunity.
Barker interrupts the flow of the story frequently to make comment. It took me some time to get used to this - I was trying to work out who was interrupting. It is never quite clear - sometimes it is an observer (the Darkmans?) and sometimes it seems to be the character interrupting his or herself. The effect is to make it clear that some other is in charge here.
The theme (as far as I could discern) is Chance. In order to make this clear to the reader, Barker has rather didactic dialogue coming from characters who would be unlikely to speak in philosophical terms. This jarred. But it has a great ending.
1.) The verve and panache with which the younger set of Barker's characters (i.e., Kelly and Kane) use the modern British idiom. It's truly spot on and delightful. Yank readers be prepared to look some words up, and don't get chuffy about it!
2.) The humour is blindingly funny. I'm thinking particularly of Kelly's - um - conversion to Christianity. What makes these scenes doubly grand, moreover, is however insane and wavering and comical it comes across. - And it DOES come across that way, Deo Laus. - This is actually the way most people I know find some sense of the numinous in their lives. Even the most orthodox believers seldom experience a road to Damascus experience settling everything for all time. It's filled with doubts and apprehensions and yes, comedy. In short, despite (or because of) the high comedy, Kelly's experience rings extraordinarily true to the psychological reality of belief. I was reminded of Nietzsche's comment that he could only believe in a God that could laugh.
3.) WORDS-Indo-European, werdh, Latin, verbum, Sanskrit, vratam command, law. The characters frequently come to the point of mental breakdown and aphasia through constant groping for the right words, especially when the history of the word occurs to them. A sample from Dory's Diary:
"(The whore playing the martyr? What a joke! What a travesty)...Travesty: trans - over + vestire - to dress. I still find myself using words which I can't understand." I might add that "trans" also means "across" in Latin - Crossdresser? The book is permeated with etymological breakdowns (in both senses) like this one. This is why I say Joyce is Barker's true master. Ever had a go at Finnegans Wake?
But, more importantly, these are the passages of the book (and they are legion) that struck home most piquantly to me. I know EXACTLY how these characters feel, and Barker, needless to say, does as well. They feel as if they are losing their hold on what connects them to other human beings, "the shareable part of experience" as it was once put to me by an Oxford don. They feel, in other words, like they are going insane. And the reader, at least this reader, whose head is crammed full of Latin and Ancient Greek, feels the slippage along with them. - As a personal example, I can't say how many times I've mulled over the word "nice" which comes from "nescire" in Latin, to be ignorant. Am I, in some fundamental way that I'm only half consciously aware of calling a person an ignoramus, a fool, an idiot when I say that s/he is "nice"? I have, in fact, had to expunge that particular word from my vocabulary because it troubles me so. For any reader who has reflected on how s/he communicates with others (or fail in some way to do so), these recurrent semantic breakdowns become eerie almost to the point of terror as they mount throughout the book.
But, as I say, I don't really know what this book is "about", if anything. The truth is....well, what Peta says near the end, "The truth is just a series of disparate ideas which briefly congeal and then slowly fall apart again..." p. 824. This is a very good description of what happens in the book as well. If there were just a tad more to it, I would give it five stars.
There are passages of linguistic brilliance followed by moments of astonishing clunkiness (at which point you wonder whether she let her cat take over). But all of it congeals into a fantastic, addictive mess.