Friday, September 10, 2010

Old faces, new faces

Before I started reading Love and Obstacles, the September-October Migrant Bookclub pick, I went back and re-read The Lazarus Project. I find Hemon very difficult to read, not exactly enjoyable but ultimately, truly captivating and disarming. Am I alone in this?

I read his work with a pencil in my hand. Here's a passage I loved:
When I went to Sarajevo a couple of years ago, I said, I found out that if I looked into the faces of the people, I saw what they used to look like-- I saw their old faces, not their new faces. And when I walked among the prettied-up ruins and bullet-riddled facades, I saw what they used to be, not what they were now. I X-rayed through the visible and what I saw was the original past version. I couldn't see the now, only the before. And I had the feeling that if I could see what it really looked like now, I would forget what it was before.

Goddamn it, Brik, you like to listen to yourself. How does your wife put up with it?

I went to Sarajevo without Mary last time, I continued, unfazed. So I had a crazy, liberating feeling that my life was neatly divided: all of my now in America, all of my past in Sarajevo. Because there is no now in Sarajevo, no McDonald's.


As I read this, I feel like Hemon cracked my skull open, scooped out a spoonful, and glued me back up. That feeling of liberation he describes... when you leave your foreign life and return home, just by yourself... It's so dead-on accurate, right? No need to explain things away. No need to pretty things up. Chunk of bread, a lump of feta, a ripe tomato cut in half.... that's all you need.

I haven't taken many trips to Bulgaria by myself since Kyle and I got married, just a couple. And for me, this feeling of bliss associated with being completely detached from my "other" life last for just about 24 hours. After that, I miss my husband.

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