El silenciero (The Silencer) - Antonio Di Benedetto
There are certain novels I have encountered that seem to be specifically written for my consumption, containing so many of my thoughts and obsessions that it seems perfectly plausible that I may have felt inclined to writing them. The novels in which I see myself in tend to be existentialist, populated by isolated, misanthropic specimens. Nausea struck a chord with me, and now The Silencer has done so too.
The novel deals with a character whose life is constantly hampered and afflicted by noise. Set in an indefinite location in South America during an indefinite time in post-war years, he lives with his mother, works at an advertising agency, has intellectual discourse with an eccentric acquaintance called Besarión, but the noise produced by a mechanical factory is a constant source of agitation. Having married a love interest, he flees his city with her, all in the pursuit of eliminating all noises and obtaining total silence.
In the second half of the novel, this urgency becomes more extreme and the protagonist starts resorting to tactics of eliminating noise that border on the psychopathic. Every location he arrives to with his wife appears to be unsuitable and noisy, and all of his previous preoccupations are replaced by this abhorrence. He eventually sets fire to a dance hall and, upon being imprisoned, the noise keeps haunting him, jostling him and infuriating him to the point of despair.
The main appeal in Di Benedetto's writing lies in its beautiful laconism and economy. Very short and fragmented sentences create a splendorous reading experience suffused with nuances and subtleties. Its narrative is everyday and quotidian to begin with as well, but as the novel takes its course it gains a greater sense of urgency and eventfulness.
One of the ironies is that, like most of the books I read, I had to overcome a variety of noises and sounds to finish it. Like the character, any 'imposed sound' is a nuisance that prevents me from existing and, like the character, from reading and writing.
Sadly, none of Di Benedetto's novels have been translated into English and I suspect that I am one of the few Anglo people to have read him. Apparently, his excellent book Zama is been translated into English, which may just bring him the posthumous fame and recognition he so evidently deserves.