Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Review of Rupert: A Confession by Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer (translated by Michele Hutchison)

Rupert: A Confession
4.5 out of 5: In this novel by Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer, we learn immediately that Rupert has been accused of a horrible crime, but we know nothing of the specifics. The novel is structured as a confessional monologue, and Rupert begins his defense for the jury by describing the end of his relationship with Mira, his cherished lover. Emotionally devastated, Rupert wanders the city seeking satisfaction of his desires but finding only memories: “I sought her in vain in the mirrors and found instead the twinkling emptiness of memory and longing.”

Like an expert performer, Rupert maintains a taut suspense by slowly revealing, sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously, the important details of his story. His monologue is littered with early, subtle signs of his lunacy, such as his explanation of why he's an expert at all martial arts after only "a couple of lessons": "Those born to the Path see through the principles of every martial art and assimilate them into their soul without having to get bogged down in the details of the particular techniques." Delusional, surely, but also quite humorous. As the monologue progresses, the humor subsides, and Rupert’s delusions become ever more menacing. Rupert constantly plays with the distinctions between performers and audience, exhibitionists and voyeurs. Eventually, like many violent criminals, Rupert views himself as existing outside of his body and its actions; he becomes "the voyeur of his own exhibitionism."

Pfeijffer’s lyrical prose shows heavy influences of Nabokov: “Mira, my sugar-sweet, shimmering Mira, my masochism, my martyrdom, light of my lips, lymph of my cyanic sadness, sea of my swan dive, salt on my howling wounds, wait for me and let me find you.” These lines (so beautifully translated by Michele Hutchinson) reveal the depth of Rupert’s obsession with Mira and hint at the trouble to come.

This masterfully constructed novel culminates in a scene that might be the most powerful description of a crime I’ve ever read. As to be expected with the stories of psychopaths, Rupert is sexually explicit and loaded with the worst kinds of violence. If that’s okay with you, this glimpse into the twisted mind of a criminal will blow you away.


Zibilee said...

Graphic things usually don't turn me away, and after reading your review I am excited to find out more about this book. It sounds like a really interesting and startling read, and I am glad you found it so enjoyable. I will be taking a closer look, thanks!

Biblibio said...

Now, how can a reader not be drawn into a book with "the worst kinds of violence"? The sexually explicit part of the sentence may be a little more bothersome, but if it's got such high marks all around, I suspect I'll be able to manage. It helps that I find the concept of the format quite fascinating...