The Tenant by Roland Topor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Roland's The Tenant is a sort of ragged Mobius Strip of a tale whose structural boundaries are loosely marked by Joyce's Finnegan's Wake and the Twilight Zone.
At its heart, the work reflects the difficulty of coping with social pressures brought on by modernity and the situation of living in close quarters with others in an urban environment. Trelkovsky, the main focus of the novel, moves from his studio apartment to another apartment, which was once occupied by a Simone Choule, but had been vacated with her suicide. Trelkovsky begins the tale as a well-adjusted, responsible young man whose only care was leaving his old place. But this seemingly innocent departure signaled the beginning of darker days to come:
He had lived so many years in this room that he could still not quite grasp the idea that now it was finished. He would never again see this place which had been the very centre of his life. Others would come into it, destroy the order of things that existed now, transform these four walls into something he would not even recognize, and kill off forever any lingering assumption that a certain Monsieur Trelkovsky had lived here before. Unceremoniously, from one day to the next, he would have vanished.
This existential crisis, however, is only the beginning of a mad, downward spiral into sociopathic misanthropy brought on by the pressure of intolerant neighbors, a landlord who obeys the law when it suits him, and the haunting presence left by Simone Choule's suicide. To say much more about the plot itself would be to give too much away, so, suffice it to say that Trelkovsky's moment of crisis leads, in the end, to a transgressive, transformative episode that leaves him with serious questions about his authentic-self. This might be salved by the company of good friends or a lover or even a neighbor who might commiserate against the other neighbors. Alas, Trelkovsky's paranoia does not help matters in this regard. With enemies like these, who needs friends?
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