Unsettling. Intense. Literary prose at its finest.
Part biographical. Part fiction. Part horrifying. Seeing Red by Lina Meruane is a novel that takes you to the inner sanctum of your worldview and shatters it, forcing you to see the world around you from a brutally honest perspective.
The story takes you through Lina's life as young Chilean writer recently relocated to New York for doctoral work, where she suffers a stroke that leaves her blind and increasingly dependent on those closest to her.
No one can really know what's going on in Lina's head, and most times she cannot really be forthright in telling those around her each and every thing that she is thinking. Here, she is having a conversation with her lover, Ignacio:
And might I know why you weren't answering the questions? I heard Ignacio say tensely, cracking his knuckles. How am I going to explain things about you that I don't even know? Do you think I'm psychic? I can't tell what you are thinking, he concluded...But no, Ignacio, of course not, and it’s a good thing too that you can’t read my mind, I answered without thinking about what I was saying. And then to myself: I'll never let you see what's inside here, things I don't even tell myself.The story is raw. Endless doctors visits, uncertainty, endless probing, constant questions and conversations in her mind, about possibilities, fears and limitless demands on loved ones. As a reader you are a front-seat passenger in this terrifying journey with Lina, and share in the terror and anxiety of whether the destination will be kind to you.
Painful memories are uncovered as Lina travels back alone to her hometown in Chile, to be with her family. For the first time, she realizes how much she depends on Ignacio to be her eyes and ears. She's about to leave the safety cocoon.
We were starting to put mental miles and silence between us, although we were still tied with an invisible and elastic cord. I could barely make anything out through the fog, but what I saw in that moment in horror, in terror, with true consternation, was that I was about to lose everything Ignacio gave me. I would no longer have his arms to guide me, his legs to direct me, his voice to warm me. I wouldn't have his sight to make up for the absence of my own. I would be left even more blind. I realized that I had been clinging to Ignacio like ivy, wrapping him and entangling him in my tentacles, suctioning him like a leech stubbornly stuck to its victim.Life doesn't stand still for anyone. As the condition pushes the limits on Lina's relationships with her family and Ignacio, she struggles with her own uncertain thoughts. But she is not a defeatist and the journey to keep on moving is, at the very least, empowering.
The book is beautifully written. And the translation is aptly captured by Megan McDowell. How do you capture your thoughts when you are grappling with blindness?
Being like this, in a fog, is like being asleep and and awake at the same time.Seeing Red is a novel that will jarr you from the start, with a prose that is hauntingly addictive. You race through the pages with a racing heart hoping that life throws a bone for Lina. You identify with her, yet you are never at comfort on the journey.
"Meruane's prose has great literary force: it emerges from the hammer blows of conscience, but also from the ungraspable, and from pain."—Roberto Bolaño
Seeing Red is published by Deep Vellum Publishing and distributed in Canada by PGC Books.
Blog post by @ShilpaRaikar (Creative and Social Media strategist, decor enthusiast and book lover, who also writes for a branding blog: thinkblink.ca/blog, as well as a lifestyle blog: sukasastyle.com T: @SukasaStyle)