This is a carefully written cross between allegory and memoir. It is distinguished in part by its control and in part by moments of descriptive magic. It is Hanania's first novel (written in 1997) and has been followed by Unreal City (1999) and Eros Island (2000). The last is less controlled (sometimes I was confused) but the author has developed the lyricality of his descriptive passages to near-perfection.
A great read.
Some of my favourite moments:
- “Though there was space ahead the traffic was staying clotted together, like clutches of a tune timid of breaking away into noise.” (p 3)
- “This was a capsule built to protect the future, a life hearse.” (p 4)
- “Whenever I returned now it was as a shabby tourist around my friends’ protected breeding programs and their bloodless dinner-tables.” (p 4)
- Part One
- “I had seen the dragon’s footprints in the bay beside the old port, near the little chapel where people left the old gloves, shoe, boots, though never in pairs.” (p 14)
- “ The buildings have that charred and pock-marked complexion common to northern variety theatres and station hotels.” ( p28)
- “The fruit in the wicker baskets is beginning to shrivel and harden. It gives off the same shrunk-fruit scent that hangs around the sideboard in so many other dining rooms of England ... Not a dead smell but a dying one.” (p 92)
- “The Fates are cruel, he says, because unlike the other gods they are deaf to the prayers of men.” (p 109)
- “I am the tyrant’s chef, and must contrive ever more exotic dishes to satisfy the appetites I have depraved.” (p 114)
- Part Two
- “This is a city of foreigners and if they all leave the city will be empty. Most of the natives are only foreigners who arrived early.” (p 177)
- “The rippleless flesh between her bright cotton halter-top and frayed jean-shorts was the colour of milk in shadow - when one can no longer tell whether the surface of the jug is liquid or skin.” (p 214)
Wonderful. May 2019