Monday, February 18, 2008

What DID make her think she cold prevail by commonsense? Haha, that nut.

It surprises me how no one has mentioned yet how this book is obviously a metaphor for WWI. Elizabeth is the Entente Powers, Paul is clearly the Central Powers, Gerard is Italy and the United States, Dargelos is the Ottoman Empire, the Room is Europe, and the Treaty of Versailles is represented by...

Ok, no. Though the talk of it earlier in class put me a little more at ease, I still can't help but struggle with what this book means/is about, if only because it feels like we're so trained to see allegory in everything we read at school. Ostensibly I can be cool with the fact that it's not one, but there's got to be something it's, er, 'about' besides some bizarre siblings, or the book wouldn't even be remembered, am I right? 'The human condition?' Or is it saying something about reality and our minds? But I still barely know what to make of what's being said here. Clearly Cocteau is trying to jar and unsettle us out of our comfort zone, but to what end?

I really don't remember much of anything I've learned about literary movements (who does? ....and anyone who's raising their hand right now, stop showing off), but glancing over wikipedia and enotes, my findings suggest this book is, I can say, pretty poster child surrealist. (My findings also suggest Cocteau wrote the book “in a week during a strenuous opium weaning.” ...It's really sad that's the thing that shed the most light on the book than anything else found in my search.) I always have trouble understanding this kind of thing, so forgive me if I'm skewing or leaving out something important here, but I guess surrealism is “a reaction against rational thought,” about letting go of things like conscious thought, self-censorship, self-control, and prized the meaning of dreams or unfiltered irrational thought over them? Or on enotes I see not dumping rational thought but trying to expand the potential of the mind by reconciling the two?

But the characters in this book aren't writing this stuff, they're living it. (And they certainly don't seem to be reconciling the two.) Control, “moral preoccupation,” “aesthetic self-censorship,” out the window to make room for their game and their Room, things they seem to hold above whatever goes on in the outside world. (ok, i'm not entirely sure I know exactly what “aesthetic self-censorship” is. But any meaning i can guess at, they're throwing that away ^_^) And it's all they can do. Paul at the very least it explicitly states could work with the game but when he tried conscious self-analysis he failed miserably. what? Is what we see in this book supposed to be some sort of unfiltered reality? Maybe I'm just misunderstanding what surrealism is (am I lame for now being kind of curious about reading those manifestos now? ...yes. Yes I am.). Still, sorry, but Liz and Paul's world looks exceedingly unreal to me. But, well, that's what anyone's reaction would be upon being introduced to this. I've watched them for a whole book, so I feel like I ought to know better, see the real behind the unreal, but...

*flips through the book again*

...Nope, they still look pretty lunatic.

Am I missing something here? Or is trying to find the 'super-real' part of this book going in totally the wrong direction in trying to understand it?

...Also, what's the deal with that Michael guy being, er, allowed in the room after he's dead? What, now he's dead and away from the rational world he makes it in? That seems rather a paltry excuse. I feel like I'm missing the mark.


DJ Kessler said...

Ha! I absolutely feel your pain about Cocteau forcing us out of our comfort zone! I am also analysing this book as it correlates with WWI but in an entirely different way than you have...fascinating. The more I try to figure out who everyone represents, the more complex it gets. I think this book could drive you mad.

Nora Kitchen said...

Haha, well in this case I was just joking about the way we are trained to see allegory in everything we read in English class, when sometimes it just isn't there, or at least not to the extent or in the way we're looking for it. (Now that I've read that snow article... Wasn't there some mention of Cocteau being annoyed at people trying to find nonexistent meaning or allegory in his work? Hehe, poor guy. But then the article, if you (understand it enough to ^^) buy it (not sure I do!), rather stands as proof that things the author perhaps never consciously intended can end up in a work. So.)

I do remember reading that surrealism was in part brought about by WWI, I guess a reaction against the kind of thought (rational thought) that brought the war about. So I guess that's one way you could kind of see the book, being so surrealist, as a reaction to WWI, heheh. But then the siblings' turning away of rational thought hardly seems to do them good, so then the message seems wrong (aren't we supposed to be promoting irrational/unfiltered thought?). Unless you want to see them as fine in the beginning of the book, and then the introduction of growing up more and pushing out the game and introducing more real world stuff into their lives and such as the taint that brought their downfall. ...That seems to make sense, but I honestly didn't understand the book well enough to say whether it was one or the other that brought them down, or something else entirely (something more specific? the breaking of the bond between the siblings? but what are the implications of that? ...i wonder if the 'holy' in the odd translation of the title comes from an attempt to imply the bond between the siblings as somehow holy? ...did we already talk about that in class? ^_^; heheh...)