Wednesday, 9 April 2014

open door [iosi havilio]

Iosi Havilio’s curious book is straight out of the enigmatic Argentine post-Borges/ Cortazar school. This school thrives off an air of unresolved mystery, taking the frayed edges of the maestro’s stories and teasing them out as far as they’ll go. The novel as a semiotic playground, full of signifiers and blind alleys. Open Door is narrated by a woman vet who drops out and starts living in a small rural society which is probably populated by lunatics. Unsurprisingly she herself becomes somewhat unhinged, descending, Repulsion-style, into a debauched lifestyle of sex and ketamine, which comes across as oddly cold and unenjoyable. Indeed, the phrase “sex and ketamine” perhaps suggests a text which is delirious and transgressive, but the truth is that Open Door feels slightly tame, the sex scenes having a similar journeyman quality to Houlebecq’s. Similarly, the relentless quest for the unexpected has the effect of becoming somewhat predictable in itself: we never know what’s going to happen next but we know that whatever it is, it’s not going to affect anything to any startling degree. The novel has been lauded extensively, but it has the feel of a sketch, which might be typical of a first novel, and perhaps it would be wiser to judge Havilio on the basis of his subsequent works rather than this cold fish of a book. 

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