Evoking inner ghosts

Anglorama nr 2/2006 (34)

Evoking inner ghosts

W swojej nowej książce Chuck Palahniuk, autor „Podziemnego kręgu”, po raz kolejny serwuje czytelnikom porcję niesamowitości, czarnego jak smoła humoru oraz kilka niezbyt budujących refleksji o świecie, w którym żyjemy.

There are eighteen of them. Not unlike circus freaks shown to the public for money, each character has a unique flaw. Sometimes it is the body that is hideous; sometimes it is the personality that is perverted. Most often, however, what really separates each one from the society is the wrong choice they made at some point in life. Despite their differences, they all have one thing in common: a burning desire to explain to the world what happened to them; to make everybody listen to their stories. In fact, each member of the eighteen feels artistic. They believe they deserve some money and recognition for the bad things they have gone through. And this is when they get a very interesting offer from a certain Mr. Whittier, in the form of an advertisement to join his “Artists’ Retreat,” a colony of writers and painters. It is a perfectly secluded place where they can work on their masterpieces, free from mundane worries and safe from whatever has been harassing them in the outside world. One day they allow themselves to be locked in a shabby abandoned theater with the elderly Mr. Whittier as their guardian and mentor.

„Haunted” is the latest novel by Chuck Palahniuk, the author of 'Survivor', 'Invisible Monsters' and the highly acclaimed 'Fight Club', which was later made into an equally successful film, starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. Like the 'Decameron' or 'Cantebury Tales', it consists of short stories told by each of the characters locked 'Inside the Artists’ Retreat'. The stories are drenched in blood and saturated with pain. And so, just to give a few examples, Saint Gut-Free tells how he lost the better part of his intestine during a bizarre act of self-indulgence. The Earl of Slander is a journalist who killed and libeled a good man to get an article that people would be dying to read. An ex-soldier, Reverend Godless makes his living by dressing like a woman and letting people beat him in bars. Chef Assassin, a professional cook, murders food critics as an act of vengeance. The Missing Link is hairy like a werewolf, and in fact he might be one.

The stories, however, are as enthralling as what happens in between them. For the longer the eighteen people remain locked in the claustrophobic darkness of the old theater, the more insane they become. Having realized that they are unable, or reluctant, to create anything, they still hope to become media celebrities by bragging about the suffering that has been inflicted on them by Mr. Whittier. The problem is that he dies quite quickly. Having no real oppressor left, they oppress and torture themselves, as each tries to appear more victimized than the others. It is a journey into the twisted minds of outcasts and murderers, without a single ray of kindness dispelling the darkness of the shabby theater. There is no escape from inner demons – claims the author – but what is worse, we would rather remain tormented by familiar pain than make a step onto an unknown path leading to freedom.

Wojciech Wojtasiak

evoke – przywoływać
circus freak – cyrkowy dziwoląg
perverted – zdeprawowany
secluded – odosobniony
mundane – przyziemny
to harass – prześladować
drenched – skąpany, umoczony
saturated – nasycony, przesiąknięty
intestine – jelito
self-indulgence – pobłażanie sobie
to libel – zniesławiać
werewolf – wilkołak
enthralling – fascynujący
reluctant – niechętny
to brag – chwalić się
to inflict – zadawać
victimized – prześladowany
consolation – pocieszenie
outcast – wyrzutek
to dispel – rozpraszać
tormented – umęczony

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