In Ezzo’s first series of novels, folkloric tales and unsettling violence suffuse a contemporary sea journey.
In this modern picaresque in the tradition of Gargantua and Pantagruel, Gulliver’s Travels and The Odyssey, each episode links loosely within the frame of protagonist Q’s journey of self-recovery. Q, an amnesiac, finds himself in dire situations full of brutal violence and disturbing sexual politics. With the wrathful goddess of the ocean propelling him to impossible lands, he navigates dangerous obstacles with the minimal purpose of continuing onward. A small sampling of Q’s trials: life as a kept husband in a house laden with dreamlike murals; imprisonment in a concentration camp with broken children; battles with horrific demons wielding gigantic phalli; descents into underworlds; encounters with deviant shape-shifters and a mystic with scatological powers; ballgames against Mayan gods of death; a spat in a brainwashing, postcolonial missionary camp; a conversation with Herman Melville resurrected; and many others—some disturbing, some comical, all bewildering. Ezzo’s series is vast in scope, sourcing everything from African folklore and Norse mythology to The Waste Land, Moby-Dick and Les Chants de Maldoror. To read it requires endurance and fortitude, not only to transcend its horror, but to traverse its 1,400 pages. Ezzo impressively synthesizes a great deal of information, but his prose often lacks compression, and the narration sometimes lapses into a tiring rhythm that merely relates the events of each tale. Extensive cuts could have benefitted the work; readers must sift through many pages to find Ezzo’s most insightful passages, which are stark yet striking, even though they dissipate quickly. Much of the series’ power comes in its critique of colonialism and fascism, so moments of described beauty in the text are scarce. In order to experience them, readers must be willing to suffer Q’s ordeals and gaze into an abyss, however unpleasant that vision may be.
Imaginative and ambitious, but this epic requires great patience.