14 thoughts on “The Sad Eyes of the Lewis Chessmen — George Berguño

  1. The Sad Eyes of the Lewis Chessmen

    “…, I saw eyes, infinitely sad eyes, gazing back at me from across the centuries.”

    With my name, it may not surprise you to learn I once visited (in the 1970s) the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides and to Uig itself.  This story intrigues me especially, then.  Starting from a cafe meeting so common in 20th century Mittel European literature towards an initially academic congeniality from MR_James-iana to a non-Euclidean Lovecraftianism – I travel with a knowing wink towards the sense of this ostensibly plain narrative (that enables me to relax from the intensities of review that I found myself experiencing with the previous stories) – yet there is an Edda feel here, too, a Flaubert’s Gambit, a transience-permanence parable and the ability to cheat logic for real through fiction, an invisible power that needs one to strip away bit by bit, move by move, sacrifice by sacrifice, one’s physical body to become a noumenon, nay, this story’s “No-Man” (Cf: ‘Norman’ at the tail end of this other review I completed yesterday!). (15 Jul 2011)

  2. Flaubert’s Alexandrine

    “I remember well the first time I saw a corpse. My father’s body, yes, it was when my father died, only four years ago.  […] and I was amazed that his eyelids did not flicker.”

    [Indeed, for me, fours years ago, almost exactly. A state in-between that still exists in memory even though the body’s now decomposed and eyelids peeled]. This story, meanwhile, following the previous one, in pre-Alexandrian Lawrence Durrell, and we are faced with neither transience or permanence but a state between them, where Flaubert’s fate is inadvertently determined towards writing a novel beyond the present’s scurrillity – a potentially second-rate novel that would create such a semi-immortality through a touch of greatness left unsullied by his own body’s carnal needs and his story’s listener’s typically male gaucheness. Yes, a story within a story, though. And so we wonder where the genius truly lies. In he who facilely writes the masterpiece? Or in the one who set up the synchronicities of a soundboard to allow it to be written? (13 Jul 2011)

  3. The Leviathan at Rifsker

    “Perhaps the time had come for Icelanders to face the end of history.”

    Charming – yet brutal – tale (presumably in an Edda mode) where a finback whale is stranded and men fight each other as well as strange weather in contiguity with the craggy land to create legends together with much-needed food. And, like all real legends, this one swims off to last forever in the trickles of time itself, I guess – ignited by a synergy of man and nature, eye to eye. Transience outstaring permanence and vice versa. Plus a prose style that utilises words like ‘horror’, ‘ridiculous’, ‘eerie’, ‘creepy’, ‘dreadful’ within a beautifully honed ‘fabulousness’ as if these words are being used for the first time (which then they perhaps were beyond any ability to disguise them by translation). (14 Jul 2011)

  4. The Son’s Crime

    “There is something disconcerting about standing alone in a space that was built for a crowd.”

    A moving story or fable or parable of a son walking with his father by the British Museum – and the loss or transience of relationships in Magritte-like suddenness of vision – or a star that tries to hide its transience from itself through becoming a red dwarf (for example) – the comfort of transience in its form of permanence as transience through repeated transfer between generations of loved ones – even between strangers masquerading as loved ones (or vice versa). Even the book itself – a truly heavy-duty artefact – seems intent on surviving the eventual destruction of our planet. (13 Jul 2011)

  5. The Farewell Letter  

    “Suddenly, I spied Joseph Stalin on the opposite balcony – and our eyes met.”

    …with another ‘ancient longing’? Mikhail Bulgakov – being written about by his wife to his brother. — “…several years trickled by” and there is much to ponder here: things to dwell upon that should never really resolve this book’s coda. Accessible or esoteric history of our recent times, reincarnation (permanence?) by lycanthropy or anthropomorphism, the misanthropic transience of old fogies like me and Molière’s Alceste. The mating-dance of literature with literature. The eventual madreperl of regret. It’s like listening to an unknown piece by Mahler as the last piece in the last concert.  (15 Jul 11)

    That moment on the balcony is so utterly moving, even more so now, in view of the Mark Beech story. (25 Jul 2011).

  6. nullimmortalis June 26, 2018 at 8:59 am

    “I used to tell my students that death may come for them in the form of a beautiful young person.”

    A work-strained professor takes a cottage in the Faroes. A woman supposedly from Malta in a hut-cum-lighthouse is his nearest neighbour. A sort of life-changing, gradually trawled vision of those who come for you in the night, here, divers divers accompanied by humming. An empty dinghy. There is an element of flotsam or jetsam reclaimed by the sea in human form, but in a state of some grace, darling. Hopefully without derelicting my duty with a spoiler, the professor’s eventual catharsis (similar to my concept of ‘wifely wifi’?) is himself in such a state of numinous, nemonymous grace. Am altar, as it were. But nobody could spoil this work. “You promised!”


    “But I need to find a way into my story;”

    — as I do with my review of it. Almost the perfect story, but the Devil knows why or how or even if. The near random associative structures within this Shetland and Glasgow story reminds me of Thomas Hardy fiction, with a bravado of poetry’s freedom within the tightly knitted plotting of prose that seems to evolve almost as an afterthought to release the gradual consequences of characters emerging and interacting. And I must simply leave you to read it for yourself to test my contention as to the prose’s in-built enjambment and also to meet the narrator (spanning his lifetime from youth to old age during this relatively short story’s span), together with his sporadically single malt drunken and brutal father, and the inimitable Professor Olaf and Billy Goat himself, the last one obsessed with the No. 17 as well as with 17 year old girls. It was when I inferred the rune that I heard a tune. You humming while picking it apart, desperate to prove I was wrong about its now established perfection as a story into which you really needed to import your own things to optimise it thus perfectly. The misbegotten blues of the gruff reader, finding that I was right.


    “…it reached me only bit by bit.”

    This is a mighty Icelandic tale in 899 as told in strikingly fabulous existentialist terms by its narrator who once somehow miraculously if foolhardily visited the Bannað in its impossible valley and was given a horse never to ride and stripped of death’s fear and any yearning for the infinite and a change of attitude to humanity and killing his farmhands because they ride that horse even the farmhand who was son of a man to whom the narrator owed much. There is so much in the story, and much else that changes gear, that one feels ripped apart by trying to remember what to report about it. It left me breathless, but paradoxically inspired. Sleeping next to a young woman or riding a horse, I am glad I was made to be tempted to read it all and thus vanquish its power of desire over me, but only should I be able to transcend the Zeno Paradox, bit by bit, within its still gory laughing enð.


    This is where the sad eyes come in, and dogs with their own sad eyes as shameful pawns in the game of humanity. Except the guilt and shame are not theirs. This work manages to convince me even though I generally dislike dogs. By reading my mind, it changes it, I guess, And now I know it’s the people who own these dogs and allow them to become strays whom I really dislike and that, as a weak vessel, I have mis-referred this dislike or even hate to their domestic and escaped pets.

    “If my eyes had not deceived me, I had just witnessed a slash in the fabric of my condition.”

    If you have sad eyes do they deceive you into retrocausally casting sadness into those you look at when they look back? Or vice versa? Well, this story, after all, is about a philosopher who wrote a book about shame and guilt, and about the police questioner who failed to fathom this philosopher’s inner mind’s confessions of guilt, as he can with all other interviewees — but this interrogator is telling about this in a narration to someone else who is in turn telling us through the pages of this book! The repercussions are manifold. You couldn’t make it up!
    Now that I have told you about this book, you must believe what I say about it and buy it to check out my own guilt and shame. It is written by a great writer who fills me with whatever emotion he chooses, thus fathoming me, a man called Lewis, through my reading eyes, and plumbing my own guilts and shames through the eyes of his words. A book that is like playing chess with inscrutability’s ever changing narrative gears.
    Now back to fighting those fires — fires that, in Valparaiso, were once a single big fire.


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