Thursday, February 12, 2004


I recently finished reading All the Errors, a collection of stories by the Italian author Giorgio Manganelli, translated by Henry Martin. It's a very strange book: a bit like Calvino, a bit like Kafka at his most enigmatic, but more abstract than either. "System," the best story in the book--though "story" may be a misnomer--is also the most abstract, describing a system made up of a number of entities, none of which are human or human-like in behavior. Nor is the story an allegory, as far as I can see. It's virtually a self-enclosed system of meanings with no connection to the real world, and yet it has a logic and fascination of its own. Here are its opening sentences:

"The system consists firstly of the Fires, which, numbering from two to seven, inhabit, pervade, and characterize the central space; hence, they are also known as Essences. The Fires or Essences are bound to no necessitated movements; indifferently, they sometimes travel with regularity, not rarely in circles, at other times in accordance with irregular and unpredictable patterns, and often they remain in total immobility. The Essences are distinguished by no established or definite form; their noetic model would seem to be the sphere, though none display that attitude precisely, deviating into various flaws: there are Essences flattened at the poles, or oblong, or roundish but jaggedly pitted, and some are even so artfully deformed as to make them seem plagued by some type of infirmity." (99)

The story continues for twenty-nine pages in this mode. "Lovers," an even longer "story," consists of a series of independent vignettes which subject human relationships to the same sort of fantastic elaboration as Manganelli applies to his imaginary system in "System." The book is difficult reading--though not "accessible only to the experts," whatever that's supposed to mean, as the Library Journal review on amazon.com asserts--and I confess that even with a good will I was unable to read more than a few pages at a time. But if you're interested in experimental fiction, you should definitely give this a try.

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?