05 August 2007

The Novel That Has Hands นวนิยายมีมือ

I believe it's time to review a Thai novel after loads of international films. I've also been wavering whether to write in Thai or English, but for the sake of consistency, I stick with the latter, only for the plain reason that I want to practise writing in this language for now.

This novel with such a strange name is written by a writer whose pseudonym is even stranger -- 'Round Finger' or นิ้วกลม in Thai. I must confess I was first attracted to this little novel thanks to its gorgeous cover. It's a story about a writer who needs to come to terms with the loss of his girlfriend, who presumably disappeared in the tsunami incident. The influence of Haruki Murakami is patent and obvious as the writer takes great pain to mention the name of the Japanese writer on almost every page. Most of Murakami's famous motifs -- the alienation and loneliness in the cityspace, the disappearing woman, the coincidence that triggers an encounter and a separation, the unexplained disapperance, the fetish of certain body parts -- can be found here. Those who love Murakami's weird novels and short stories will not be disappointed, I can assure you.

But it's my personal belief that Mr Round Finger (คุณนิ้วกลม) is perhaps more indebted to an invisible writer whom he never mentions as the influence is perhaps too powerful. (This perhaps merits a psychoanalytical study of the all-too-powerful father figure, too powerful to mention, but everywhere such influence is pervasive.) This writer is Italo Calvino. I don't know whether the author has read Calvino's fiction, but its similarity between his text and If on a winter's night a traveller shouldn't be ignored. The play of the levels of textual reference is worth noting: there is an interaction of at least three worlds, that of the writer, that of the reader, and that of the main character. This interaction also entails a philosophical dimension, when the author makes us contemplate on such issues as fate and free will, especially that of the character to detach himself from the dictate of the writer.

Even though Mr Round Finger tends to present a positive ending in which one can choose to be what one wants, but hey isn't this conclusion IRONICALLY ANOTHER COMMAND OF THE WRITER. This logical twist may undermine a lovely message at the end of the novel, but it may show how at the end of the day if an author chooses to discuss fate and fatalism and such like in his/her novel, the author still commands, as he's the GOD of that world. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I simply don't think that there's a possibility to let characters control their own fate without the author's intervention.

Maybe (this is just my presumption, ok?) the act of writing is simply a way for a (wo)man to express his/her megalomaniac wish to become omniscient, yet pretending to be humble to erase him/herself from the text. But the humbler s/he becomes, the more insidious this will appear. Hence, I prefer the fair play whereby the author admits his/her desire to be GOD, and plays with the fate of his/her characters accordingly. (This political correctness (his/her; s/he) starts to make me tired!)

This is why in Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveller the burden is entrusted to readers, as readers can actually interpret and reinterpret what the writer says in whatever ways they want. Maybe the only way to 'kill' the writer is to give birth to the reader. Maybe Roland Barthes is wrong when he mentions about the death of the author, as if this figure just withered and died out of his/her own accord. No, somebody needs to 'kill' the author, deliberately and violently too!

Well, shit happens when I write reviews. I start with something, and end with another. But at least you get something, right? Or perhaps you yourself the reader need to 'kill' me first before you can get anything out of this.

No comments: