Monday, March 23, 2009

BROKEN GLASS by Alain Mabanckou (A Tribute)

Broken Glass comes at you like a train, it bears down on you and you read and read without looking up, kind of mesmerised by the flow, as if someone near by is talking, talking, talking and you know you should be listening, and most of your head is, and yet some of it isn't, because if it did, it would be too much, your brain would fry, and yet not to fully listen is enough, not to fully listen is what Alain Mabanckou wants, it is his way of talking his way of telling, an unending stream that soaks rather than waters, persuades like the scratched record that somehow skips tracks quite perfectly, the important thing is not to end, not to stop, not ever, the important thing is not to care but to let yourself sink into the story of the Stubborn Snail and how he came to own a bar and why he does what he does and will not stop even if the world is against him pretty much like the chapter or this review

there is nothing like Broken Glass, nothing that I've ever read, it is like seeing into someone's mind, seeing their thoughts swirl and form and disperse as if the sky is breaking up too with a mother of storms, and it doesn't matter if you don't exactly know, or can't exactly see because who can know what is inside another man's mind, who can tell how another sees, all I know is that somehow it makes sense and it is because of this I keep reading without stopping

or maybe it is because I am in the mood for this, because last night I didn't sleep, I swear it, didn't sleep at all, and all I could think about was the pointlessness of everything and how it would all end without anything mattering which is just the kind of dismal thing that always nestles in my head like a self-perpetuating prion when I lie awake, and the only thing to do is get up as quietly as I can and read but maybe I shouldn't mention this though of course I have, and really what is the harm because everyone on the planet knows this truth - that all we seem to do each day is fill our lives with words and movement and noise so much that I think it is just a blocking out

and so I go on, and so I force myself to concentrate on the thing I am supposed to be saying, the point of this piece - because you see it has liberated something in me, maybe it is the effect of the man called Broken Glass, how he loiters at the bar and gets other people to talk, and I know that there are some people that have this skill because people sometimes say even to me 'why am I telling you all this? I don't usually say this to anyone', and I think that maybe some people's faces look like a drain or a sponge and you know that what you tell them will just get soaked away, until what is left is something small and harmless,

but getting back to Broken Glass, I think it must be the way he listens which gets them to talk, and the things they tell him, how they like to screw around, how people tell lies, how they get what they want by pointing the finger, how easy it is to convince everyone else of another person's insanity and criminality, and it's as if the person that talks the loudest or the longest, or doesn't pause for breath is the one that's doing the convincing, and maybe that's why Broken Glass talks in this book, and that's why Stubborn Snail gave him a voice in his bar and a notebook to write down his thoughts, just as I am now in front of this computer screen

but Broken Glass sees more than me, and most notably and vividly he sees Robinette, and through Broken Glass I can see her too, and having seen her am unlikely to forget her because of Alain Mabanckou I can appreciate her massive thighs and monstrous cheeks and relish the unexpected victory of a man called Casimir Highlife,

it is hilarious but also profound, it took me to a place I'd never been before and I enjoyed every minute, each character is startling and unique and come together like some exotic bunch of flowers

but of course Broken Glass is mainly a book about Broken Glass - the man of sixty-five who used to be a teacher, who knows he drinks too much and still yearns for the little bitty women, and Broken Glass thinks he knows what he is and that Diabolica was wrong, and so was the school, and that people tell lies and towards the end he realises what makes him happy and it is this:

'when I let myself go, and forget this is something I've been asked to do, I feel at ease in the saddle, I can jump and buck and I can talk to a reader other than the Stubborn Snail, a reader I have never met because anything can happen, and the Stubborn Snail did say to me once 'I promise not to read what you write until your reach the last full stop'

and of course there isn't one because there never there


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Verre Cassé" was adapted for the theatre in Belgium (successfully, it seems) two years ago and also had three representations in Paris. See photos there:

Alain Mabanckou's blog:

I'm not an expert on how to adapt a novel for the theatre, but it would seem almost impossible, if "Verre Cassé" is mainly a "stream of consciousness" work.

Mon Mar 23, 02:56:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thanks Gilles - fascinating, I'm going to have a good look in a minute.

Yes, I can't see how it would work either - unless it is a series of monologues like Alan Bennett's TALKING HEADS. I'd love to have seen it.

Mon Mar 23, 03:11:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just noticed… You wrote "Mackanckou", but as far as I know Alain M. is not Scot.

Mon Mar 23, 05:21:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thanks Gilles - yes, not just one misspelling, either, but two different ones! I hang my head in shame...

Mon Mar 23, 05:39:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suggest you delete my comment and your answer. Pas vu, pas pris, as we say.

Mon Mar 23, 06:20:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thank you Gilles, you are a kind and generous man, but if it's all right with you I'll leave it up. It seems more honest and entertaining like that.

Mon Mar 23, 06:24:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's all right with me, of course. I was thinking... You write equally well and vividly about literature, art, travel, and biology; you're a real Renaissance woman!

Mon Mar 23, 06:36:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Gilles - you have made my day! Thank you.

Mon Mar 23, 09:08:00 pm  

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