SPECTATOR by Salazar Rachel


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An austere, spare, hushed, cinematic little novella that gives another go-round to the ethereal epistemology of modernism: being and nothingness, symbol and death. Owing as much to the films of Antonioni as to its literary forebears (the progeny of Beckett, say, and the French post-moderns), it is sometimes mannered but often poised, and not without a thin, earnest charm. Mara, girl from New York, marries Rafael, a young Mexican painter given to a possessive, sexual jealousy. They travel to Mexico, where for a time they live in somewhat constrained circumstances (privacy is hard to come by) with Rafael's mother. The mother becomes ill; Rafael remains with her in Mexico; Mara returns alone to New York, where she has an affair with Soseki, a Japanese dancer. Rafael returns to New York; there is a dinner party with lover Soseki and husband Rafael both in attendance; an unsatisfactory trip to a nightclub; some hallucinatory, dream sequences of searching, abandonment, and loss (including a ""reading"" by a blind, aged writer reminiscent of Borges); and, at story's end, Mara is left alone in a bare apartment, surrounded only by Rafael's many paintings, all of them of ""skulls and women."" ""Each painting,"" thinks Mara, ""is a story, but she is forgetting."" In such end-game abandonment, what is the self?, or meaning? Mara is surrounded only by objects in the near-empty apartment (as in this purposely near-empty narrative): ""Every object reminds her of a particular moment or scene, some of several. She keeps on giving things away."" At end, she is left only with a photograph--image of an image--of herself and Rafael, which she believes shows that they ""must have loved each other then. . . The photograph is proof."" At once ambitious and slight, and touched by the derivative, but nevertheless rather wistfully evocative for those of a literary-philosophical bent.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1986
Publisher: Fiction Collective