Tuesday, June 13, 2017

a self-formed bower

Zofloya, like – all, I think: all? – the other British books I've read from the same period, regards each house as if it is a solidly established and perpetual fact of life no matter what role it plays in the story. It might function as a prison, a nice home, a place of refuge, whatever; but there they are, these immobile and effective containment objects with the human pellets flying to or from their confines. The house is empirical yet unconscious and the pellets struggle with their own agency. Richardson's Clarissa is the story of people changing houses. Charlotte Dacre's Victoria, escaping from an emprisoning house, seeks a city. Being "firm-minded" she is able to spend one night in the woods when she finds a room-substitute, "a self-formed bower," growing from a wall-substitute, a hedge. I notice this because the Oliver house in Hamsun's Pump is affected by whims. There is the question of whether it might be taken away from the family at any moment if Lawyer Fredriksen feels like it. Oliver is inspired to blackmail the lawyer, which makes him feel pleased. He has found a practical use for his own cuckolding; it is smart. Any small opportunity to exercise his independence can bolster him. The smallness or perverseness of the opportunity is discovered by Hamsun here as elsewhere; it takes almost nothing to make someone proud or angry, nothing; the forces in the spiritual, emotional, or invisible world and the physical world do not match in his book; and they cannot measure one another. 

This is an idea the author tests again and again throughout his oeuvre: yes, it's true here, yes it's true there as well, and now it's true again: it's outrageous, Hamsun never gets over it – look at this, he says, peeking at you to see if you get it. (I mean that he will tell you about Oliver's triumph as if with a straight face, while you think … yes: as Hamsun must know you do … but you won't catch me saying so, he tells you by implication, sharing the same kind of stupid cunning as his characters -- their pointless evasiveness …)

He wrote endlessly about smallness; he enlarged himself on smallness. Hunger is literally nothing. 

Nowhere do you see the house-uncertainty better than in two of the doors, which are only in Oliver's possession because he is relying on the real door-owner to feel too ashamed to demand his property back from a one-legged man. Oliver sells the doors to someone else; he's called out, he gets them back; he sulks over them; these doors keep flying in and out of the structure.

If you have plans to change yourself, as Fredriksen does, then someone else viewing it from their own angle will observe an opportunity for their cunning. That is what your plans look like to them. (In this respect, a Norwegian Balzacian.)

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