Anglo-Hungarian author Gail Varga writes about the relevance of her new tragicomic novel “Wild Times with Granite” to everything from the fall-out after the US was Trumped by an almost elderly man with a unique hairstyle, to the overwhelming feeling one gets when the sun simply won´t go down fast enough on your bad day.
People across the world are worried, worse than worried: they are living in terrible, bottomless, bottomful, bottom-leaking, dark fears. There are inner, personal fears: I will never be lovable because my body sags there; my inner voice might lead me to irrecoverable disaster; I can´t be as good as those people I´ve never met who are better than me…
And there are fears of the external world: killer bees!; Trump presses the nuclear button on a whim as he zooms away from Earth on his Trump spaceship full of beauty contestants! Ok, let´s say that I am not completely 100% sure that last one is fictional but, let´s face it, most fears have at least an element of… how can we put it?… magnification? invention? sensationalism?
Of those that don´t, some we need to respond to immediately, like the car that swerves towards us, or the weather report that warns us to batten down the hatches; and there are other concerns that need our more measured attention: the questionable health of the environment; blossoming xenophobia in an era when an estimated 220 million people do not live in their native country (amongst whom are, no doubt, some Budapest Times readers); lack of equitable distribution of resources… and even these are often dressed up and seductively reiterated to us as things we should feel actively frightened of.
Whether whipped up by the media, ballooning due to our own sensationalist-seeking psychology or simply real, we can definitely say that fear is ubiquitous. All in all, we live in Wild Times indeed.
One thought runs that, in times of difficulty, tragicomedy can help to acknowledge, make light of, and possibly even deal with a situation. In my novel “Wild Times with Granite” I go one step further and also employ allegory.
Set in the timeless Wild Times, a post-traumatic, nebulous era of stalking horrors, the fearfulness of both the inner and the outer worlds is magnified to the level of ridiculousness and played out in phlegmatic quirkiness.
Extremely unreliably narrated by the fearsomely growling and possibly only sane member of a small family living in an isolated coastal nowhere, the story follows a linear, if wobbly time-line from childhood to old age as she tries to build a house from fearful Granite and thus transform her legacy of crippling fear and lack of safety into a real life (unsure as she is as to what that might be).
On the way, our heroine deals with the fatal goo that falls from the sky; flying trees that are lifted by the spontaneously exploding earth; the ceaseless screaming that perforates the brain; the duplicitous yellow flowers that seem to be seen and certainly smelled everywhere, and does everything she can to make fears run, fly, slither, slime, lurch, limp or fizzle away.
She clambers emotional troughs and peaks with deadpan brutality and oblique innocence, lives through aeons anticipating the arrival of building materials, and centuries of bloody building work.
She finds out about love on the way with her pet snail, a dusty spider and her Uncle Heap (comforter with his big veiny hands and practical sorter-outer of all things Wild).
She is let down by architect extraordinaire Ervil Nitzo (a disingenuous, snoring bore with an inky nose) and lives under periodic visitations of the curse of “doom” uttered by her Mother with some of her last words (after she has passed through her plate-smashing phase but before she becomes inert and silent in a chair for years), but is helped by Toobit Lonkins (a flea-bitten bird who acts as postman) and two blood-smeared builders: bellowing Nursten (a man of huge proportions, prone to beating his chest), and graceful Wort (a small stutterer who has suffered some “puh-pain”).
“Wild Times with Granite” exemplifies the puniness we feel in the maelstrom swirl of trauma or post-trauma, the sense of being stalked by the predatory “otherness” of our situation and still find some obvious means to address it, to carry on.
With a poignant sense of persistence, a quietly driven optimism and only the humblest sense of triumph the book makes light of life´s deepest (or most trivial) difficulties.
Gail Varga´s novel “Wild Times with Granite” is available at amazon. More information and contact with her can be found at gailvarga.com, and she can be seen giving a free author talk about her work at VinoPiano wine bar, Tűzoltó utca 22, Budapest, on December 13 at 8pm. All are welcome to turn up without reservation.