The Fear of Losing Eurydice (Book Review)
by Julieta Campos
1979 / 1993 (translation)
4 / 5 Stars
This is one of these reviews that is less of a review than an extrapolation into the themes behind the book.
There are multiple stories within this novel. There is the tale of a Mr. N as he attempts to write a love story based on the theme of islands. There is the love story itself. And there are random quotes about islands in the margins. There is also a first-person narrator who comes in and out near the end. These four points of view interweave with one another in an elegiac and thematically resonant way that relies on allusion and metatextual elements that range from elegant in their application to a tiny bit overbearing.
I’ll get into the “literary” part of it in a bit, but in terms of character and plot, there isn’t a lot. The novel isn’t meant to provide you with any of this though, so I’m not rating it as I do a regular work of fiction, but I wanted to get that out there for those who aren’t sure what this book is. It’s literary fiction - it’s meant to be challenging and confounding at times. It’s an experiment, a meditation on not just love but inspiration, and how they work hand in hand to conflate and encourage one another. It’s about imagination and how writers form ideas. One small scribble in the margins, a sketch on a napkin, a list of previous thematically inspiring quotations - anything and everything can give rise to art. Love in this novel is both love as we know it, but also the love of creation, of craft. The love of a writer for writing, as much as it can make us go mad with longing, keep us up at night, and make us feel like something we know we can have, a fantastic story, is just out of reach.
Of course, the title has relevance here. The story of Orpheus and Eurydice, not just the story itself, but the concept of desire and possession and Eros and Thanatos being interlinked runs through the novel, as one would expect.
Yet, I will say, in terms of readability, while I enjoyed the rather confusing way the text interwove and spiralled around itself, the few times she listed off various items/people/works didn’t do much for me as it took away from the otherwise lyrical prose. The middle of the novel dips slightly in interest.
Overall, I really enjoyed diving deeply into this novel. There were several passages that were quite lovely/thought-provoking, which I’ll list below. Anyone who enjoys thoughtful, contemplative literary fiction will enjoy this.
“All of Verne is the story of a story of love postponed to infinity, never told, as if that prolonging of expectation, that deferment of the tension of desire over an infinite span would generate the most incisive of enjoyments: that of anticipating the greatest rapture without succeeding in consummating it.”
“He wrote a poem which he then forgot because the words, pursuing the leaves, simply scattered: a poem of augury, of desires, of catastrophes, storms, and shipwrecks, of nights and islands.”
“They will discover, by watching the black sky, that the sweetened alcohol is infinitely, gently nauseating and that the moon, sliding like an ancient parchment across the endless hollow of the night, is another island.”
“... the slow, secret slide of the afternoon into night; the furtive voracious and aggressive tendernesses; the loneliness mutually respected; the ephemeral eternities; the distant fusions; the effusive boredom; the impatient surroundings.”