I have to admit I was afraid of this book. It is over 200 pages of a single sentence, so there was a chance it would be like a bad artistic European movie, so focused on its super-artistic (aka pretentious) form that there’s not much content left and the whole thing becomes a painful struggle. Luckily I am happy to report it was not the case. One more aside note, I really don’t know why the publishers decided to put such a massive spoiler on the back cover, but I know I could have done without knowing it. It does not kill the story completely only because it is not a plot oriented one.
Marcus Conway is in his kitchen on a November afternoon, Angelus bell has just sounded, the house is deserted and he starts reminiscing. His flow of thought taking us through deliberations on engineering, financials crisis, politics, nature of human relationships, the story of his life and family. Marcus is an engineer married to Maired, with two now grown up children, Agnes and Darragh. As his thoughts travel from one memory to the next, connected by an association of smell or someone’s face, he shares with us his thoughts and doubts about the world. What I found fascinating was his constant struggle as an engineer to find order in the world, to understand the way it is constructed, all the time knowing full well it is impossible, being always aware that engineering fails to capture the metaphysical and yet always trying. This struggle for understanding, for order, knowing ones place in the world is a recurring theme as Marcus attacks it from various angles.
Another thing I liked about Marcus being an engineer was that every time he got carried away into philosophical musings, as soon as he realizes that he starts to ramble, his discipline brings him back, he tries to reign his mind, his doubts and his faith. The book strikes a perfect balance of mundane and metaphysical. Marcus flow of thought is easy to attune to, his associations have the feel in some way familiar. The language is beautiful, wisely used to evoke emotion, fear, love of life, tenderness, but never touchy-feely, always to the point, never unnecessarily florid.
I was surprised I was able to read this book while commuting and despite the interruptions I never lost the train of Marcus thought.
Beautiful! One of those books that make you feel like you did something really good for your mind.
What books gave you this feeling? Share your recommendations in comments!
Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska