Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Noite - Night by Erico Verissimo

Sometime ago I enjoyed reading Borges and the Eternal Orang-utans by Luis Fernando Verissimo, unbeknownst to me at the time was that Luis's father was a writer as well, famous for his epic novel O Tempo e o Vento - Time and the Wind, recently though I managed to read a copy of his novel from 1954 Noite/Night. Narratively speaking and perhaps thematically as well the novel has two parts, the protagonist is a man referred to as the 'stranger' who finds himself lost in the city and in a state of semi amnesia, his wallet is full of notes and he has a bloodied handkerchief. As he wanders the city he is haunted by the notion that he has committed a crime, perhaps a murder, eventually he comes across an inn where he becomes embroiled with a hunchback and a man who appears to be his master.
The two lead the stranger on a somewhat carnivalistic tour of the city's seedier underside, determined to match him with a prostitute they visit various places, but as they progress, the hunchback and his master begin to suspect the man of the murder that he himself suspects he has committed. They visit a doctor friend of the master's at a hospital and subtly enquiry of a murder case that had occurred during the night, the prose feels that it's taking the slightly existential route of enquiry into themes of identity and guilt. As the night progresses they visit another house of potential iniquities, one that perhaps is visited by those of high standing. After spending the night with a woman of the house the strangers memory begins to filter back and return, the narrative begins to change into being more of an internalised one as the stranger recalls his relationship with his wife and of his dilemma of not being able to perform on their wedding night, he cross examines his inabilities, and in the surmounting confusion forces himself on his wife roughly, scaring and hurting her, he falls victim to his own compulsions exacerbated by his wife's and by turns society's expectations of him. The stranger returns to his home caught between hoping that his wife has returned and fearing it to be empty.
This was a fascinating novel translated by L.L. Barttlett, whose translation on the whole still stands up pretty well, the edition read was published by Arco Publishers in 1956, who also published a number of Verissimo's other novels which one day I'd like to read.

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