“Maybe he didn’t exist, boy like me” (Animal Life)

HIn May 2012, Vincent Trophy and I met the young American writer Justin Torres, author of the first novel, We are the animals It appeared a few months ago in France under the title animal life, published by Olivier, in translation by Laetitia Defoe. De l’Olivier’s Editions reappears with this title in its “Library”, this pocket collection that makes it possible to highlight the catalog headlines, and the books that have marked and marked thirty years of so great a history. Editorial.

modify print drafts animal life Ten years later, it amounts to overcoming the amazement of time in the face of a new voice, instantly individual, like an encounter with a solar man who is one of those still engraved in themselves, to measure fully the timeless power of this book. On the other hand, nothing changes the difficulty of writing about it, this novel escapes all comments and only unfolds in reading and re-reading. The story is in a few words, it is at any rate elsewhere: sure, one could write that its theme is the chaotic childhood of three brothers, “Three United Young Kings,” left more or less to their own devices in an unknown and disadvantaged American suburb. We can say that everyday life is disrupted, we sleep during the day, and we live at night. We eat when things fall, we drink too much, the mother runs away and the father dances and scatters.

Justin Torres, May 2012 © Kristin Markander

But from a terribly cliched story, so many of those who share it, Justin Torres paints a wild and bitter novel, which has the power of those who talk to everyone, and yet, one suspects, is at first terribly intimate. But there is no satisfied acknowledgment in this text: Justin Torres has erased any reference to space or time, and his narrative logic is that, poetically, out of pure sense: fears, pleasures, memories, fragments that build little by little an “I” I began to write that, in The risk of his diary being discovered and all of it lost. It is indeed from a mysterious and uncertain past, between horror and petty pleasures, that the narrator appears, different, not only because he is the son of a white mother and a Puerto Rican father (“We were half ugly, half black, half savage”), not only because he is poor but because his difference is sexual— It will one day be literary. “Look how I make them uncomfortable. They smell my difference – my strong and sad scent. They think I’ll know the world better than them. They hate me for my good grades and my white morals. They’re disgusted, jealous, deeply protective, and proud.”
Look at us, look at us last night together, when we were still brothers. ”

This is the book’s theme: for self-expression and self-exposure without ever leaving margins or ambiguity, remaining forever “the Elf, our access specter”. To be in the net line of a story without tricks is like fainting, a form of flexible hallucination, which makes any idea or memory of an image instant and clear, never allowing the infinite action that supposes such power and this energy of language. The animal lifeis the person through which the “I” passes against the “we” ( we from the American title), dismissed as soon as his diaries discover, when the clan, so united in spite of everything, discovers that he fantasizes about an ephemeral love “about men’s toilets at the bus station” (“I’m going to kill you”, “You pues”), rejected Until arrest.

“I’ve done and said animal things, unforgivable things. So what do I do but lead me to the zoo? An open wound divides the novel, echoing a wound one would guess is autobiographical in the book’s Final Confessions,” a special thanks to Laura Eudes, the high school English teacher who He brought me books when I was in the hospital.”

Justin Torres confirms nothing, justifies nothing, he he is. His strength is in his outright rejection, which makes the exploding force of these animals, his wild life, and nourishes his electric prose with that violence that is poetry, that awful beauty, that fear that is attraction, rejection that will become the subject and urgency of writing. Finally the narrator said to himself, “Perhaps there was no such thing as a boy like me.” There is no doubt that every reader builds the meaning of this animal life For some, a book against intolerance, for others, a moving childhood story, the complex search for freedom, plastic novel sensitive to difference social novel prose poem dark gemJustin Torres, the black jewel of Michael Cunningham. All of its dimensions are, in fact, indivisible, interconnected, unheard of, in the diamond in the rough that is this book.

Justin Torres, animal lifetranslated from English (United States) by Laetitia Defoe, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, January 2022, 160 pages, €9,90

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