Saturday 27 October 2018


The Taiga Syndrome by Cristina Rivera Garza   {Reviewed by THOMAS}
“I dedicated my time to writing about the cases I had worked on, but I wrote them differently. My new method was to recount a series of events without disregarding insanity or doubt. This form of writing wasn’t about telling things how they were or how they could be, or could have been; it was about how they still vibrate, right now, in the imagination.” An ‘ex-detective’ takes a commission from a man she meets at a party to follow and bring back the man’s second wife, who danced with a man she met at a party and fled with him deep into the Taiga, leaving a trail of telegrams and other “forms of writing no longer in use” which have given the man the impression  that she wants to be found. The ex-detective looks out through a window and sets off. What she embarks on is a literary undertaking rather than an actual one, but one with exactly similar detective work. The journey into the Taiga is a journey into the forest of possible ways a story could be told. “Whether I was obeying or taming language is not important.” It is not difficult to find the traces of the woman who left, but the detective’s quest is not so much a search for her as a search for the mechanisms of passion that motivated her to leave and to enter the Taiga: the quest is one of becoming aware of the experiences of the woman, or, rather, of becoming aware of the words that might be used to express or access the experiences of the woman. The detective is seeking not so much to capture what happened or to capture the story that might be written about what happened, as to capture the mechanism by which what happened might give rise to the story about that happened. What is the relationship between the mechanisms of passion that caused a woman to leave her husband and follow another into the Taiga, and the mechanisms of passion that caused another woman to follow and to write about it? The detective seeks to understand “the desire of bodies and, at the same time, the desire to narrate bodies.” She asks, “What is between imagining a forest and living in a forest? What brings together the writing of a forest with the lived experience of a forest?” The Taiga is emotional rather than physical terrain. The detective travels with a translator, a man who is able to provide her with parallel representations of the stories told by the people who live in the Taiga, a man who both both provides access to experience and keeps this experience at a remove and uncertain. The narrative is full of parallels, removes, repetitions, circularities, and circularities-within-circularities. Is the person the detective is tracking in fact herself? Does she seek to know why she herself left and ran off into 'the Taiga', or desired to leave and run off into 'the Taiga'? Is the constant emphasis on fleeing and on one who flees evidence of an unstated situation in which it is impossible or not yet possible to flee? To see through a window is to project oneself through that window into what the window frames: the distance, the Taiga, the place where one is absent from the situation in which one currently exists. In fairy tales one enters a forest both to escape and to confront the cannibalistic desires to which one is exposed in one’s ‘ordinary’ life and situation. In the Taiga the detective discerns terror, especially the terror experienced by the so-called lost woman, but the terror is primarily a terror of consequence, any consequence, a terror of a development towards which we are propelled through the impulse to escape. Where does the trail lead? “To seek something out is to expose it,” but “it is difficult to describe what can’t be imagined.” The quest is a literary rather than a physical endeavour, a struggle for what we might call narrative to overcome what we might call description. The story is frequently overwhelmed and lost by noticing, by the ‘evidence’ of the senses. Noticing is static. “Seeing is just confirmation of a fact.” It is the natural tendency of details to disperse the impulse and obscure meaning, although impulse and meaning have no way in which to come to our attention without details. “When nothing else seemed to make sense, sense was hidden in irrefutable words.” Will the detective ‘find’ the woman (even if that woman is herself)? Will she ask, “Is this the end of falling out of love?” Will she bring the woman back (whatever that means)? “Failures weigh people down,” the detective states, but she also provides a quote from Einstein that likens gravity to fiction: “Said force is an illusion, an effect of the geometry of space-time. The Earth deforms space-time in such a way that space itself pushes us toward the ground.”

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