“My life is a predictable accident, rapist. It does not ontologically define my existence but occupies it like a handful of soldiers”.
On January 25, the last piece of Eva Baltasar’s triptych was released for Nottetempo, a triad that began in 2019 with “Permafrost” and continued with “Boulder” in 2021 (Italian release dates). The frost, the boulder, the immense animal. Go retro, candid souls.
So in short, before holding our breath and throwing ourselves back into these icy waters, we choose to re-read the first chapter, which at the time made such a deep cut that it now leaves us trembling and uneasy in front of the freshly printed new volume. Then it was epiphany and daze, devoured with the same voracity of someone who can’t wait for the candy to melt in the mouth and then shatters it greedily, to get straight to the filling. Today it remains intense, equally dazzling, perhaps and fortunately less painful.
Premise. There is a whole genealogy of ruthless female writers in which Baltasar rightfully fits: women who mix bodies made of organs and humors and pleasures with feelings stripped of any embellishment, sharp as paper, annoying and immodest. As if plot and style closed in on themselves to punch us in the face. Ergo, the reader is asked for a certain harmony of feeling, a certain perpetual malaise welcomed beyond the defenses of reasonableness, an aptitude for intensity that does not bother to ascertain its blessed or diabolical origin.
And therefore permafrost: soil perpetually frozen in depth. Above: a thin active surface layer. Under? To know. Perceiving oneself as the sum of layers, some of which are apparently unbreakable, stratification as the cause and consequence of a certain way of being in the world. Consequence of the family, for example: see under “mother”, see under “inadequacy”, see under “defence”. Cause of a relational complication that leads to perceive sex as the most superficial and at the same time most understandable movement: “Sex keeps me present and saves in an intangible but reassuring space”.
All the rest? Far, far away – hidden away, neutralized, anesthetized. Schizophrenic ambivalence of intensity and estrangement, inside and outside, above and below the frozen layer. Next to love, as far from it as possible, in a liminal balance as maddening as it is essential. Reading this novel is like doing an autopsy on a living body: there is the exact incision of the scalpel on the cold skin and there are dark and bubbling cavities, unpredictable connections, non-localized pains of which we would like, pray tell, to understand the utility, just as the disease that generated it is derived from the symptom. Because the body lives, stubbornly, with impunity, also and above all against the will, free from any need for sanity. And the mind? Baltasar shores up the entire surface of a woman barricaded in the cold, until he finds the crack, the doubt, “through which the warmth of the world infiltrates” – up to that infinitesimal, necessary glimmer of meaning: to find it in a little girl and thus accept unconditionally all that groping of a disconnected, wild life, and at the same time see a place to feel vulnerable, yes, but human.
In Baltasar’s novel, at a certain point, the protagonist admits that she is constantly lying, bordering on pathology. This poses, or should pose, some problems for the reader. But if we welcome the lie as constitutive of the permafrost, we will understand how this awareness gives history a double light, like a reflection on the glass that prevents us from clearly seeing what is hidden inside. We will then see two images, fiction and truth, complementary in what one says about the other, we will perhaps recognize some of our own lies, what we tell ourselves about ourselves beneath our very personal permafrost, made up of disappointments, traumas, misunderstandings : and if we use that scalpel on our flesh, curious to know what’s underneath, maybe we too will have a chance to really live.
Recensione di Delis
Eva Baltasar, Permafrost, Nottetempo, Milano, 2019
Original edition: Permagel, Club Editor, Barcelona, 2018