I’ve been reading a lot of crazy books for my “Readings in Global Fact and Fiction” class at Johns Hopkins University this semester. One of the books I struggled with most was Julieta Campos’ The Fear of Losing Eurydice. I had to submit an essay before coming back from spring break, so I chose to write about this book because I like a challenge… and I like writing about things that frustrate me. The essay might be a little wonky, but here it is…
|I have no idea why these dancers are on the cover.|
As a foray into the inner caverns of consciousness, The Fear of Losing Eurydice is not an easy book to follow. While navigating my way through this literary labyrinth I found myself asking lots of questions: Who’s speaking? Where in the world are we? Do physical laws apply here? What time is it? Does time exist in any meaningful sense? Wait, who’s speaking again?
The Fear of Losing Eurydice is not an artistic interpretation of the world as Campos knows it. Rather, this “novel” is a unique blend of the literary, the philosophical, the surrealist and the avant-garde. Campos, a lifelong student of all things literary, uses an array of established forms and mechanisms to shape her own anti-form. But the resulting literary construct, however it’s ultimately defined or categorized, is of little importance. This book is about getting consumed in a maze of love, desire and the voyeurism of writing.
This text is deeply philosophical but by no means dry. Campos frequently gets lost in the expanse of her own descriptions, leading the reader into a state of sensual and intellectual overload. Here is Campos describing what I believe is a scene from a dream: “Excessive, obsessed, proliferating mirrors, which will multiply gestures many times and play with the ghosts of other presences, witnesses who will imitate the gestures of still others.” Here she is describing a Caribbean street that may or may not function as a time-space vortex as well: “The pavement, softened by the heat, gives off a light vapor that slows the speed of bodies and retards timepieces as if an invisible apparatus were projecting something that, outside of its own space and its own time, must have been happening elsewhere and in another temporal sequence.”
Identifying and deciphering a specific narrative point of view is nearly impossible — which is what I think Campos was trying to accomplish. One of the reasons it’s so difficult to understand who is speaking is because Campos bestows consciousness upon everything, persons and inanimate objects alike. To follow Campos’ language is to enter a dream-like state of mind where individual consciousness cedes way to a collective consciousness. Like the raucous combination of cheers before a headlining band takes the stage, this mass voice simultaneously drowns out and amplifies the individual voice.
Campos doesn’t try to tell a single story, but a series of stories that, taken together, attempt to encompass even more. “To tell the story of the couple is to tell the story of another couple which is another story, but it is the same one,” Campos writes. However, this expansive approach, coupled with Campos’ highly stylized language, makes it hard to ascertain what, if anything, is actually happening. Cause and effect have little to no meaning in Campos’ narrative. Desire rules all. Physical actions stemming from this desire are less important.
Monsieur N. is the only real “character” in this novel. An aloof French professor, he sits at the Minos Palace café somewhere in the Caribbean, talking to himself, imagining things, grading his students’ papers (which are translations of writings by Jules Verne). One actual “event” that occurs in this story is when Monsieur N. draws a picture of an island on a cocktail napkin. This simple act of bored creation opens up a rabbit hole through which Monsieur N. and the reader fall into alternate worlds. A love story takes shape alongside the story of people shipwrecked á la Robinson Crusoe. It’s all thoroughly ridiculous.