Adventures in Immediate Irreality by Max Blecher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Evocative of many other works, Max Blecher's Adventures in Immediate Irreality is a beautiful read that is not quite its own. Perhaps if I read this before I had read Huysmans, Millhauser, and Beckett, I might have felt that the work was more unique. Though the echoes are sometimes faint, they are there. And, while "comfortable" to me, they caused me to harken elsewhere, rather than allowing me to enjoy the book for its own sake.
That said, this is still an excellent read. There are moments of pure readerly joy, such as the passage where the narrator is describing his observation of what appeared to be a dull print of Karol 1 and his Queen Elizabeta:
One day I made an amazing discovery: what I had taken for watered-down paint was nothing other than an accumulation of miniscule letters decipherable only with the aid of a magnifying glass. There was not a single pencil- or brushstroke; it was a string of words telling the story of the King and Queen. Now that the misunderstanding about the paint was cleared up, my admiration for the artist's skill was boundless. Indeed, I was embarrassed at having missed the work's essential quality the first time round and began to harbor grave doubts as to my ability to see anything at all. Having contemplated the drawings for years without discerning the very material from which they were wrought, was not I prey to so great a myopia as to misapprehend everything around me, misapprehend meanings inscribed in things perhaps every bit as clearly as the letters that constituted the drawings?
All at once the surfaces of things surrounding me took to shimmering strangely or turning vaguely opaque like curtains, which when lit from behind go from opaque to transparent and give a room a sudden depth. But there was nothing to light these objects from behind, and they remained sealed by their density, which only rarely dissipated enough to let their true meaning shine through.
This heightened sensory perception is something explored ad nauseum by Huysmans. The emphasis on artifice, a fascination with artificiality that one wears on one's sleeve, is one of Millhauser's trademarks. And the perverse, borderline psychotic (definitely "outside the social norm") attitudes of the narrator show "pre-echoes" of what Beckett would later explore in his
trilogy (though the syntax and voice are not nearly as stream-of-consciousness laden as Beckett's work).
The work starts out quite . . . tame, I guess, is the word. But as one progresses through the book, the narrator's experiences and voice become more florid, more transgressive, more steeped in irreality. But Blecher never loses sight of the fact that adventures in irreality do not simply involve the pleasures of one's fascination with a world that is out-of-step with "reality". There is a dark side, as well, that the hallucinator must face, naked and alone. Else all of his hallucinatory excursions are reality in his eyes. Even the insane must face the existential crisis, at some point.
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