Engleby

Today’s topic is Engleby by Sebastian Faulks.

Engleby is a strange book, a combination of psychology, adolescentine themes, love, loneliness and despair. Most part of the novel is the first person view of Engleby, which tells us his story, starting from his young age to present day.

Engleby is the model of the lonely, the not understood, the enigmatic. He starts with a poor childhood, with a deviant father, with a full of despair mother, and only with a little sister to care about. Engleby has a horrifying high school experience, where he attends a famous school, but living in a common house with all other students, he suffers from exploitation, abuse in different manners: being called names, laughed at, made fun at, asked to perform humiliating tasks for the older students, like having a cold bath in the middle of the winter. Engleby’s response to all this is only ignorance, he only lives in his mind, presenting autism symptoms. Although on the outside he looks normal, on the inside he lives a life where he doesn’t care too much about the others, or even about what happens to him. In order to live, he begins stealing and conducting drugs merchandise. He also intoxicates himself with medicines, whatever he can get from pharmacies, he combines with alcohol to live a deprived life, where he is mostly drunk, junkie, and with a mind disorder. He acts under drug and alcohol influence, and his own personality is stranded by his addiction to all this stimulants.

Engleby has also glimpses of a normal human being: he is very erudite, reads a lot, knows a lot of stuff, and he spends a summer helping out his college to shoot a movie. Here, we are introduced to Jennifer Arkland, who quickly becomes his obsession. His life starts revolving at some point around Jennifer, he goes at her classes, tries to get in contact with her, but he doesn’t have any ultimate goal. His attempts at friendship or seduction are poor and without success.

Engleby’s diary is full of gaps, and we are confronted with the situation of Jennifer’s disappearance. Engleby is confronted by the police, but no evidence is found. He tries to continue his life without Jennifer, at first hard, but he soon manages to forget her by using again drugs and alcohol.

After a few years, Engleby is found working in journalism business, with not such great success. He tries to start a relationship with a woman from his work, but this is doomed from the start, when he tries to move in with her. His lack of social skills and empathy destroy his relationship.

A turning moment represents the finding of Jennifer’s buried body after many years, and with the help of modern technology, evidence indicates Engleby as a murderer. In the end, he admits his crime, and is sent to a psychiatric hospital, where he lives to the present day. His memories begin to surface, showing that the gaps produced by drugs also hide several murders and other toxic behavior.

Engleby does not indulge pity, he is a man that seem capable of controlling his actions, but through the book he only let me feel disgust. He is misogynistic, anti human, full of himself, even though in the start his early life deserves empathy. His punishment is completely worth, even after remembering his crime, he does not have any remorse nor does he blame himself for his actions. The only responsible for Jennifer’s death is Jennifer herself.

Engleby is a model of a naturalist sound psychopath, and the author tries to introduce us in the world of such a man, trying to make us understand how such crimes are possible, offering himself an analysis of Engleby’s psyche, through the forms of the papers written by his doctors.

Jennifer is the helpless victim, in her prime, and we can see through glimpses of her first person story diary, that she has a normal student life, only to be terminated by Engleby’s erratic act.

The novel itself leaves me with a bitter taste, hoping that there are not many Englebys out there, but knowing that the human mind is very complicated and still full of mysteries that we can possibly solve.

The orange girl

Today’s topic is Appelsinpiken ( The orange girl ) by Jostein Gaarder.

The orange girl is a very beautiful short novel, about love, life, purpose of living, universe and the human condition. The story is depicted as a letter to a 14 year old boy from his deceased father, which he barely met until he passed away when the boy was 4. His father wrote this letter to Georg, in order to tell him the main story of his life, so it could help him when he grows up, knowing that he won’t be there for him anymore.

The mysterious orange girl is his father’s love of his life, a girl which he meets in a public transport tram, carrying a bag of oranges. Because of him, she drops some oranges, and it’s lost on the streets, but somehow it marks the young Georg’s father for life. The orange girl becomes his obsession, and he desperately tries to find her. The theme of the young boy in love is depicted, the desperate search, the dreams and ideas that come to mind, the play of the mind and body. He takes the same tram over and over trying to see her again, wandering the streets imagining every person is her. The adolescentine and naive love is cheerfully colored, with a happy ending: he finally finds the orange girl, only to leave him eyes in the sun again, being mysterious and disappearing once again.

Another part of the story is depicted in the letter in the father’s present time : he tells the story of the child Georg, and the mirage of the Hubble telescope, a wonder of science that allows us to see past our current condition and into the greatness of the space and Universe. Georg’s father knows that he won’t live forever, and tries to teach his future older boy about his experience, about the meaning of life, and the gift that is only once given to us.

Georg realizes that the orange girl is really his mother, now widow and remarried, and with a new little sister for him. He begins to see something in his mother, something that his father was crazy about, something which completely changed his life for ever, and something which does not regret a single moment, even though it brought so much pain and so much happiness in the same time.

The letter changes Georg’s life as well, being now more mature of a sudden, and being more brave to speak with a girl himself dreams about. He begins to value other things in life, and tries to follow his path, as the most important result of a pure love between his father and the orange girl.

The novel depicts these strong themes, love, life, death, although it has a sad ending, the future does not sound bad at all, and life cycle begins again, with a new love, a new tomorrow, and new things to discover, for each of us. The experience of love is lived again and again, and our place in the Universe is well established, although very volatile and passing.

Wonderfully written, The orange girl leaves you with a bittersweet taste, one of found love, fulfilled love, but still, with an emptiness inside, that one needs to fill it in their own lives as best as they can. The author invites us to listen more to the stories of our parents, of our closest persons, and learn from their experiences.

Hunger

Today’s topic is Hunger by Knut Hamsun.

Hunger is a kafkan novel about the misery of ultimate human condition, in contrast with a civilized and high order culture. The novel has a main character who lives with the least amount he can get, surviving each day with the hope of a better tomorrow.

Main theme exploited by the author is the basic human need, nourishment, which lacks severely for the character. He is caught in a trap of society, where he cannot provide himself with the least necessary, but has an ego that stops him from asking for help from authorities or other people. The character prefers to suffer, without indulging penalties on the society or other people, struggling to survive. He begins to write something for a publishing house, but his condition itself is stopping him from achieving his goal. Living only with change and sometimes selling some of his minimal properties, like his jacket, keeps him alive every day. During the novel, he manages to get some money, only to spend them on a poor rent or by helping other homeless people, but not getting anything in return.

The main character is an intellectual, faced with the misery of needing to procure his meal and day by day needs without having any money or means of sustain. He could get out of this problem if he could sell his work, but the problem is it takes so much time until his work is sold, such that he cannot live by then. The intellectual is forced to live with the means of a low class pover, which is the contrast of the book. The author depicts the condition of hunger, lack of minimal life conditions with a character that struggles in waving sands, by his moves only getting himself deeper into the mess. Being unable to scream for help, he keeps all his suffering for himself, only praying that a higher power will save him. His fall is strong, and he somehow realizes that the world is unable to keep him.

Hamsun depicts his story in strong observations, giving me the feeling of hopelessness, of futile life and attempts to revive. The story is sad, however, it makes us appreciate more the simple things in life, and gives a role-model of poverty and generosity.