People in the Room (book review) Norah Lange

Charlotte Whittle (Translator), César Aira (Introduction)


201011: not for everyone but definitely for me. haunting, hypnotic, harrowing. this reminds me, partly because of era in which it is set, of early use of motion picture technology. it was not self-evident that movies would tell stories, let alone in different manner than stage, with different focus than novels, for it is first that images 'moved' that fascinated. then tracking, zoom, close-up, dissolve, jump-cut etc became part of filmic grammar and stories were essentially different. images in silent movies told the story. images went from panorama, action, to closest psychological inspection. for me this is what this book does...


this is exactly the right medium for the story- slightly altered. this could be silent movie, with gestures, speech inferred, with repetition, significance implied or imagined, all from the voyeuristic perspective of the girl. who is passive spectator, who invests emotions without clarity, who never discovers who the women are, what has brought them to the room, what history binds them, who is the mysterious man, what are the letters... finally, not even knowing their names. and it is all a dreamlike, surreal project- her obsessive gaze- for she never shares this with her family, indeed seems paranoid anyone discovers her investigation...


questions multiply throughout this text, not simply who the women are or who the watcher is, but also structural. ‘nothing happens’ in plot ways but everything in thought ways. this is sort of a metaphysical thriller. there is consistent absence of identifying features- even the most banal description of the women is problematic for the watcher. do not know spanish so i do not know how lit is originally written, but it seems direct and uncomplicated, and perhaps that is the best language to tell this, a sort of language that is near as invisible, as transparent, as possible, for the most emotional declarations of love or hate or wishing them dead. and this is language deployed to give the (illusion) of objectivity, that i love so much about this book...

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