Nenhum Olhar [The Implacable Order of Things]
I was convinced by Dragos’s very enthusiastic review to try this book, so I went out and got it at the very first chance. And I did like it, but I can’t say I loved it. Somehow, it strikes me as the kind of book you like better a while after you’re read it – its meditative and lyrical tone are not exactly the stuff to keep you hooked, but more to get you thinking. Usually the second alternative is better, but since it’s (almost) December and thoughts of holidays, presents and treats are filling my head it would have been better to have gone for something light & fun. But at least now I know that’s what I want to read this month 😉
In short, the book is about 2 generations of villagers and their plights. Most of the names are biblical – like Matthew the land owner, the Siamese twins Moses & Elias, Joseph (both father & son, both shepherds), Solomon, old man Gabriel and Judas, owner of the local tavern – but it is not God that rules over this small patch of land but the devil. Women, though ever-present in the book and just as caught in the implacable destiny are unnamed and, had I known more about the Bible, I would have been able (perhaps) to think up reasons why. The book is beautifully written and very poetically charged, there are repetitive passages, meditations on human condition and on death that are touching and worth remembering and the prose is graceful and effortless – reminding me a bit of Jose Saramago (in fact, Mr. Peixoto won the Jose Saramago literary prize).
I think: perhaps the sky is a huge sea of fresh water and we, instead of walking under it, walk on top of it; perhaps we see everything upside down and earth is a kind of sky, so that when we die, when we die, we fall and sink into the sky.
Each chapter begins with a 3rd person narration of the main events, followed by a 1st person perspective of the actors involved, so that you end up seeing from all the angles and understanding on several levels. It’s a nice trick, making you, as reader, feel omniscient – even more than the narrator. At the same time, the individual voices are not that different, they are all pained, all flawed, all wronged by the greater force who decided their path. The whole book ends up being a meditation on destiny, death and the ephemeral nature of life. The devil is a malevolent force and, in such a space devoid of faith, it is almost too easy for it to instill doubt and anger in people’s hearts. The little love that can be found is unrequited, untold or abruptly cut.