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Category Archive for 'Allegory'

In this uniquely Irish combination of satire and morality tale, author Claire Kilroy introduces the young, alcoholic thirteenth Earl of Howth, who is testifying in a 2016 legal case about the “Celtic Tiger” and the Irish real estate “bubble” from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, a case in which he was an active, but naïve, participant. Summoned to court years later, Tristram St. Lawrence gives evidence for ten days between March 10, 2016, and March 24, 2016, his whereabouts a mystery from the time of the real estate crash to the much later trial. Though he was personally involved in several enormous real estate schemes during the height of the action, he was, from the outset, a front man – a figurehead whom M. Deauville, a mysterious foreign investor, chose for his noble background and the presumed legitimacy his title would bestow on the projects being undertaken by Castle Holdings, domiciled in the thousand-year-old castle in Howth owned by Tristram’s father. Author Claire Kilroy presents Tristram’s story as part satire and part morality tale, a style which makes it possible for the reader to recognize how vulnerable, and almost cartoon-like, Tristram is. Though no reader will take Tristram seriously, most readers will be empathetic as they recognize how he is manipulated on his step-by-step journey to disaster. Entertaining and enlightening.

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Using the point of view of a female victim for the first time, and setting the story in a chaotic near future, James Sallis introduces the back story for Jenny Rowan, a name she assumed after she was held prisoner from the age of seven to the age of nine, confined to a wooden box under the bed of her kidnapper, who viciously assaulted her sexually for two years. When she eventually managed to escape, she hid in the Westwood Mall for two years, scrounging for food and discarded clothing, until she was discovered by social services and assigned to a juvenile facility until her sixteenth birthday. Aid from an elderly woman after she was freed led to a job at a café for five years, while she also went on to school and received a degree. Throughout, she recognizes the help she has received from good people who allow her to make her own decisions, and eventually she finds the perfect job, working for a TV station where she spends all day alone in a dark office finding snippets of stories on the internet and then combining them into features for the evening news. It is in this job that Jenny is working when this novel opens, and she quickly becomes real for the reader, who grows to care deeply about her. Sallis, in writing this, has seized life here and twisted it way beyond all norms, establishing easily identifiable themes about a victim’s emotional survival and strength, her tenuous steps into society, her need to progress at her own pace, and eventually her ability to reach out and help “others of [her] kind.” The focus is allegorical and experimental, and Jenny’s early life more closely resembles fantasy, however dark, than it realism.

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Earth and Ashes, a small novella, packs more feeling and more power into its few pages than most other books do in hundreds of pages, and few, if any, readers will emerge from it unscathed. Author Atiq Rahimi, an Afghan national now living in France, has recreated the Afghanistan he remembers when it was occupied by the Russians (1979 – 1989). He was seventeen at the time, and life has not improved much for the populace since then. Only the enemies have changed, and they now include many factions from within. Without preamble or any lengthy setting of the scene, the author introduces a main character who is faced with a family crisis from which he may never recover, then tells that story in plain, direct, and straightforward language which gains impact from its very simplicity. Dastaguir, a grandfather accompanied by his small grandson, is walking along a dusty road from his town of Abqul toward the coal mines of Karkar to find his son.

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Within the two hundred fifteen pages of this short, allegorical novel, Evelio Rosero creates a microcosm of Colombian rural life in the fictional community of San Jose, where no one knows who will attack them next—the army, the paramilitaries, the guerrillas, or the drug lords. Though the residents are peaceful small farmers and businessmen with few, if any, ties to the “outside” world and virtually no interest in the country’s politics, every militant faction vying for power in Colombia somehow believes that these residents constitute an imminent threat. Every character in the novel becomes a sort of Everyman, an ordinary person living his own life, just like the ordinary people in any other country, with similar kinds of goals, a similar desire for love and family, and a similar belief (or non-belief) in a higher spiritual power. Because Rosero also creates intriguing, quirky personalities for his characters, they are livelier than most other generic, “Everyman” characters, and they therefore generate sympathy and understanding of their individual problems while they also represent broader, more elevated themes.

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