The dark glimmers of the golden south


BarcelonaHow can we die if we haven’t lived yet, asks pharmacist Malone as he begins Watch without hands (The Other), by Carson McCullers. The doctor, while playing with a letter opener, has just told him that he will die soon, and Malone is now suddenly aware of the precarious value of life, but inexplicably juxtaposes this revelation with the letter opener the doctor is distractedly playing with. The letter opener acts as a window into an indefinite memory of Malone’s, which, although it does not fully surface, generates a dead angle inward to the character, to whom it creates more shame and pain: it is one of those objects that condense sense, a mechanism we know from the stories of O’Neill, the Russians, Flaubert or Faulkner, authors that McCullers admitted had influenced him.

The same author, in an article a Decision from 1941, he considered that his realism, ascribed like the works of Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner or Tennessee Williams to southern gothic, it was a “peculiar and intense” realism that, despite a certain allusion to the mysterious, had more in common with Russian realism than with the Gothic genre. Both styles, Russian realism and southern US realism, depict societies that despise human life, and are in themselves exercises in literary cruelty, as the narrator juxtaposes the tragedy and banality of the most trivial objects and situations without changing the tone. McCullers thought that this allowed him to “detail the whole soul of a human being in a materialistic way”.

Fight for life

This novel, the author’s fourth, was published in 1961, when she was already at the peak of recognition, and has elements of farce and tragedy at the same time, like the The heart is a lonely hunter o Reflections in a golden eye. The four main characters fight for their lives, in some cases literally, they feel insecure about who they are and don’t know how to make themselves loved, a recurring problem in McCullers’ prose. The racist and reactionary south of the town of Milan, in Georgia, is, more than a context, a character that affects the lives of all four in a decisive way: the judge, a decrepit old man, oscillates between the melancholy of loneliness and family mansion and the pure astrakhanada of wanting to recover the value of the currency of the slave-owning South; Malone senses that, now that he must die, he has things to finish and he wonders if “the greatest danger of all is not losing oneself”. Complete the characters the judge’s grandson, with race and family privileges, but who has just discovered a homosexuality that we sense torments him; and a mysterious blue-eyed black servant who doesn’t know everything about who he is.

Creator of a recognizable imagery and atmosphere, where passion is more important than justice, the author rejects the responsibility of categorizing the emotional experience of the characters, when she explores the dark areas that, despite all the distances, could be ours; informs us about the confusion and confusion but does not take responsibility for it. In McCullers’ stories, and this one is no exception, the constant and mysterious change is manifested; day after day, everything seems the same but one morning we look back and realize that everything has changed. Life, which slides between trivialities until the final tragedy.


Source: Ara.cat – Portada by llegim.ara.cat.

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