“‘Where we are from,’ he said, ‘stories are factual. If a farmer is declared a music virtuoso by the state, everyone had better start calling him maestro. And secretly, he’d be wise to start practicing the piano. For us, the story is more important than the person. If a man and his story are in conflict, it is the man who must change.’”
But, alongside that ability to imagine a plausible response, Johnson also does this: as his novel goes on, and as it shifts from a thriller to a novel of education, to something else entirely, he adds layers of metaphor. This, especially, works: the division of a person into individual and legend, man and story. And that division lines up well alongside (or, I suppose, laid over, like a transparency) the double consciousness of the man who knows about the televisions and the rice but turns his back on them.
January 30, 2012, 11:00am Comments