Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bolano's By Night In Chile and the Wizened Youth (4)

I finished the novel and in retrospect it seems more like Kafka than Joyce – perhaps somewhere between Kafka’s The Castle and Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. That’s just an impression.

The “wizened youth” image is clever. It is himself when he was young, but he now calls himself Father Ibacache – when he visits Maria Canales whose castle is in disrepair and soon to be taken from her. No doubt I should read this again with the idea that the Wizened Youth is Ibacache himself . . . but not Ibacache exactly. He is the true being, the one Ibacache prostituted and corrupted, the one Ibacache sinned against.

And do we not all, all of us who are older, have Wizened Youths? Perhaps we can say as Ibacache does that we regret nothing, but how do we fare when we are compared to our youthful ideals. We were once beings who had yet to do anything in the world, but we dreamed and planned and intended to do things, idealistic things, perhaps great things. How did we do? Does our Wizened Youth like Ibacache’s shout at us and accuse us? What are these shouts and accusations? That we have not done as we said we would. That we have not persevered in our ideals. That we have compromised and rationalized the choosing of something else.

Perhaps I always knew I had a Wizened Youth. Way back when he was a real youth and not yet wizened, he sat in a Sunday School class and heard the story of Solomon. He thought Solomon’s prayer for wisdom was wonderful and he too prayed that prayer. I don’t think the Wizened Youth can criticize me in that regard – or can he? I have persevered in study and even thought often of that long ago prayer. As to the achievement of wisdom itself. . . how can the Wizened Youth rail at me about not having achieved it when it is beyond my control? I can study and even reason from what I study, but can I stop at some point and declare myself wise? Or not stop, perhaps, but believe myself wise? I haven’t managed either of those things.

If we move into the realm of religion, and Father Ibacache was after all a priest, even if only in Opus Dei, then wisdom is not our own but Christ’s. He has been made unto us wisdom. Yes, I believe that, but that is way too abstract for the present world. If you go to churches you will hear Jesus words repeated over and over, read over and over, but who can put his words into their own? Who can encounter a Maria Canales or Pinochet or Mr. Raef and Mr. Etah and exemplify wisdom? When the breeze picks up and we don’t hold the rudder just so, or perhaps pull in the main or jib sheets at the right time and in the right way, we may go into irons, and if in irons we are confused. Where is our wisdom then? Jesus has been made unto us wisdom, but what happens when we haven’t handled the boat quite correctly and we are in irons? I look about and the Wizened Youth is just as confused as I am. He didn’t shout at me do this or do that when I was coming about. He didn’t say go on as before, don’t tack. He waited to see what I would do. Or perhaps it didn’t really matter to him. I could do as I liked. I could go into irons or not. Eventually I would catch the wind again and go someplace. What did it matter? It didn’t impact the Wizened Youth.

Our Western Civilization has a Wizened Youth. He shouts and rails at what we have become. We try experiment after experiment and he shouts and curses, but we don’t listen. He knows nothing about Socialism or Welfare States. He is idealistic and devout. He is a Renaissance Man, every inch an individual, and we have become herds of cattle, jostling against one another in subways and if thunder should occur or lighting crash, then we may very well be trampled.

1 comment:

bathmate said...

good posting.i like it. thank u. :)-