Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it
I wanted to read this before the movie came out – and what started as a task I had set for myself ended up impressing me way beyond any expectation. I read it on the plane to Lyon and back and I broke away from it only to tell my friend how, with every page, I couldn’t see any glimmer of light or color for these people – and at the end, I could barely contain my tears.
I wouldn’t use the word masterpiece (which, of course, can be found on the back cover blurbs), but this seems to me a perfectly constructed book: the sparse language to match the dull nothingness the two travellers find on the road, the understanding between them way beyond the few words they actually exchange, and the landscape – the all powerful, all encompassing barren landscape, which just might be the main character in the end.
I’d seen a few days before an interview with Viggo Mortensen (who, btw, is perfect casting as the father) in which he was saying that if there was no connection between him and the kid, no matter how well either of them acted, the movie would fall flat. Looking back, it makes perfect sense now, since the driving force of the book is the father – son bond, created not through words or promises, but through years (3, at the start of the book) of walking across a desolate, burnt country. It may be a journey of becoming for the son, but it’s not a road trip punctuated by excitements temptations and some big revelation making a point for spiritual growth, but a daily struggle for a little more of a life where nothing good might ever happen again.
The cataclysm that reduced everything to ash is never known – nor is the reason they survived, but its consequences are just a state of fact that needs to be accepted simply because there is no other alternative. For the child, this is all he’s ever known – and the stories his father tells (of happier and richer times) are starting to have no meaning for him. In the end, they don’t really need words, because most of what these words depicted is now extinct.
This is the first book by Mr. McCarthy I’ve ever read – and it’s been quite the experience. I might try something else eventually, but I have to say I’m afraid of being disappointed.