Tomás decides to walk.
–Yann Martel - The high mountains of Portugal - c.2016
This book. I just.
Okay, to start with I wasn’t sure I was even going to finish it. Tomás and his fridged wife and his walking backwards. And his troubles with the car. But midway through his story it seemed to click with me and I really started to enjoy it. In a way I guess you could say I stopped trying to understand anything that was going on and just read the stories.
They all deal with grief, each is the story of a man dealing with the death of his wife/lover/child. Each is unusual and weird and there is magical realism all over the place. Chimpanzees and Iberian rhinoceroses. I really can’t say what it is all about but I did really enjoy it.
It is the selection for my next book club meeting, so it’ll be interesting to see what everyone else thinks of it.
The first story, Tomás’s seems to be about grief as anger. Tomás is angry at God and for some reason he decides that walking backwards is a rebuke to an uncaring God. It is his way of demonstrating his objections to the uncaring world he sees around him. He also wishes to share his anger with the world, so begins his quest for a crucifix he believes will bring down God. But his journey does not lead him where he thought it would, and on the one hand it is hilarious, or at least I thought so in parts, but it is also horrifying and terrible.
The second story is almost the strangest of the three, and I really don’t know what to say about it. Because I think you need to read it, but I’m certainly sold on Agatha Christie’s Poirot as a stand in for god, that totally works for me :)
The third story, the final part of the trinity, is about a politician who returns to his ancestral family home in the company of a chimapnzee.
What do the chimps that feature in every story mean? What about the rhinos are are continually referenced? I don’t really know. I guess the chimps represent people, and how we come from nature and shouldn’t ignore that. But the rhino? Is it about the search for meaning? or for peace?
I really couldn’t tell you, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.