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اثر میوریل اسپارک از انتشارات ماهابه - مترجم: صادق زمانی-داستان تریلر

The Driver’s Seat, Spark’s own favorite among her many novels, was hailed by the New Yorker as “her spiny and treacherous masterpiece.” Lise is thin, neither good-looking nor bad-looking. One day she walks out of her office, acquires a gaudy new outfit, adopts a girlier tone of voice, and heads to the airport to fly south. On the plane she takes a seat between two men. One is delighted with her company, the other is deeply perturbed. So begins an unnerving journey into the darker recesses of human nature.

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My apologies, dear Muriel Spark, I can see a comparison forcing its way into this review of your short masterpiece, as I found a catastrophic similarity to a work not worthy of being mentioned in your presence. I am sorry, but as you know, sometimes things just have to happen, we know it, and we cant do anything about the stains we will leave behind. It is not your fault, your story was here first, you have been innocently assaulted by a brute! My only excuse is that your lovely character Lise embraces stains and strange combinations and patterns, she has Marble Skin, in Drakulic sense of the word!


This is a classical tragedy in the sense that we follow the inevitable path of a determined heroine to her death, carefully set up and announced in the beginning. Everything Lise does leads to the dramatic climax of her being murdered. She knows exactly what she needs in order to prepare, and the opening scene, rather disturbing for the reader and the other characters, makes perfect sense to her. She goes berserk in a shop after trying on a dress that turns out to be stain-resistent.

@As if I would want a dress that doesnt show the [email protected]

She eventually ends up buying clothes that break every notion of colour coding, combining patterns in a disturbingly individual way. This is accentuated by the contrast foil of a lady in a book store who asks for books to match the design of her spare rooms, preferably in pastel colours. This made me laugh hysterically, considering the lady in question was from Stockholm, of all places, the home of compulsive colour coding and shallow fixation on surfaces.

Lise sets off on a journey in several acts to find her final destination, and her murderer, who has to be her type. She is picky, and rejects several options, while continuing on her path, lying, stealing (mostly cars, from failed murderer applicants) and buying odd accessories for the grand finale. Wherever she goes, she makes an impression, people react strongly to her appearance, and will remember her oddity later, when they act as witnesses after the fait accompli. The reader is immediately informed of their later statements. Foreshadowing is a consistent tool to drive the story forwards.

@Go [email protected], Lise says. @Youre not my [email protected] He looks explosive. Another of tomorrows [email protected]

When she finally encounters her murderer, he is reluctant to follow her, as he wants a different life for himself. She has to guide him through the whole last act, taking a lead, the drivers seat.

@Kill [email protected], she says, and repeats it in four [email protected]

The murderer gives in to the dominant murderee, and kills her, leaving the stage to the sound of the repeated words @fear and pity, pity and [email protected], the very essence of Aristotelian catharsis.

Curtain and standing ovations!

Reluctant comparison:

This wonderfully strange, scary, disturbingly perfect tragedy-novella has some evident similarities to the annoying plot of London Fields, featuring a murderee determined to get murdered in the last act, using her manipulative charm and sense of chameleonic change of appearance to summon murderer candidates and to check their suitability for the task. The femme fatale Nicola plays her surroundings just like Lise, however with less charm and grace, and in an everlasting dull repetition over 500 pages.

After reading The Drivers Seat, I know the plot as such works beautifully - a determined murderee, looking for the murderer, is an exciting thought experiment, but I cant believe Amis got away with that lengthy rip-off without punishment. He stole the story and put a lot of testosterone into the mix.

If Lise is a skilled professional murderee, Nicola is a cheap copy cat. Keith, however, and Marmaduke make up for it a bit, giving London Fields two comical characters where there is only one in The Drivers Seat, the deeply religious Jehovas Witness Mrs Fiedke, whose take on reality reads as follows:

@No flying from Barcelona, I said. Im a strict believer, but I never trust the airlines from those countries where the pilots believe in the afterlife. You are safer when they dont. Ive been told the Scandinavian airlines are fairly reliable in that [email protected]

I will be closing this review with a smile on my face, thinking of my dear heathen home country, where books are bought to match curtains, and thanking Mrs Spark for her genius tragedy-novella!

The murderee is dead, long live the murderee!

And Nicola: I dont blame you for copying Lise, who wouldnt feel tempted? Unfortunately you didnt choose your narrator as wisely as she did, so you got stuck in the middle.

Update a week later:

I honestly thought I was exaggerating the @Swedish decoration in pastel [email protected] angle of this book, written such a long time ago. I thought it was satire, until I opened my free weekend newspaper and read an article that made me think Muriel Spark was a master of foreshadowing things she didnt even know existed:

Saturday, 17th September 2016, a reportage about a Swedish author (of crime fiction, of course) and her sense of home styling in bright colours. Pictures of her kitchen, hallway and living room, and of her book case, custom-made to fit (I AM NOT LYING!) her own books in multiple copies (approximately fifteen per shelf), all sorted by title. 15 copies of her first book on one shelf, 18 of her second on the next, and so on. And since the spines all vary slightly in colour, it makes a harmonious impression. This is true. Not satire. I apologise for thinking I was being funny when I wrote about that lady from Stockholm in the bookstore last week. I underestimated the situation significantly!

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A disturbed womans journey of conscious self-annihilation...a perverse fairy tale in which the @prince@ becomes a vehicle of destruction...and a brutally piercing statement on female victimization and empowerment.

Yeah...theres a lot to admire in this work.

That said, I must admit that the story didnt engage me emotionally the way a work dealing with themes of this magnitude usually will. My thinking was engaged, and my philosophical curiosity was certainly feeling it, but my compassion, my inner core tethered to the human condition, felt mostly ignored.

I say mostly...but not completely...because the climax of the story went a long way towards rehabilitating all my complaints.

The last 5 pages of this work were so brilliantly constructed, so surfeit with existential genius, that I wanted to crawl into the book and kneel in supplication before Ms Sparks skill.  It was perfect and devastating, and turned a weak, clinically appreciative 3 star rating into a memorable read that was just a wisp of something away from a 4th star.

This is my first time reading Muriel Spark, and I intend to continue my travels through her catalog as there were moments of dazzle in this work that were almost blinding. Our guide through this novella is Lise, whose inner motivations and desires are a puzzle we are meant to solve. Spark never lets us into Lise’s head, and all we are witness to is her behavior and her dialogue.

From her gaudy, attention-seeking attire, to her dysfunctional interactions with the world, to her sexual hangups, to her off-kilter reactions to everyday situations, she is a rubik’s cube whose complex patterns must be aligned. This character dissection becomes suffused with urgency when we learn early on that Lise is going to be savagely murdered. In just over a day, she will be tied up and stabbed repeatedly.

Spark’s described this as a “whydunnit” because who killed Lise is less important for the reader to determine than the why.

This work felt a bit like “anti-Kafka.” By this I mean that, instead of a normal person waking up in a world gone mad and unknowable, Lise begins the story loaded with crazy and proceeds to impose her madness on the society around her. Whereas Kafka’s characters feel out of control and eventually realize the futility of their struggle, Lise feels in complete control and never realizes that she is swept up in forces that are, in the end, beyond her ability to orchestrate.

In the end, I liked this. Its a short work and the pages seemed to turn quickly. I stayed engaged throughout, and genuinely enjoyed the story.

I just found myself intermittently anxious for Spark to more deeply explore certain of her narrative observations, to provide a bit more commentary on events. There was some of this, but it generally failed to reach the deep places inside me...until the very end.

But the ending...WOW...that was...a...MOMENT.

You know what I mean, those fleeting instances when a book will just pound you and leave you reeling...the moments that reinvest your passion for reading and the written word. The ending was one of those moments. A completion of a momentous journey that is both utterly successful and an abject failure...leaving nothing but victims in its wake.

My timbers shiver to think of it now.

Its short, its well written, it has an ending of sublime genius. Its worth reading...maybe more than worth reading.


مشاهده لینک اصلی

Abandon hope all ye who enter here

I tell you, youre on your own with this one. I cannae help. Dont come here looking for an interpretation, analysis, outline, summary or evaluation. I havenae a clue what she was up to either.

Naw, and three times it is Ive read it the noo, can you believe that? THREE TIMES. Well, its very short. Naw, thats the thing, it doesnae help. In fact it just gets more confusing, cos you keep on finding wee dots that just wullnae join up, dya ken? I have this theory that Ms Spark was actually quite often really cruel to her characters, and here she goes that one step further and is cruel to her readers too. Shell be sat up there on her own wee cloud somewhere laughing like a drain at all the cahoots. You know, people trying to make sense of this nonsense? The secret is: THERE ISNT ANY.

Naw, she doesnae gie us any help. Its all just weirdly bizarre.
Funny? Aye, well, youd need a right warped sense of humour, but yes, in a painful way it is, aye. Ye ken, that kind of laughter that just releases your anxiety, because you dont quite believe what youre seeing? That kind.

Aye, of course I thought about it. And tae begin with I thought it was a feminist tract; woman goes in search of The One. It disnae do her much good (to put it mildly) when she finds The One. On the way to finding The One she is assailed by two lecherous males with come on lines that are hard to credit: @On this diet the Regional Master for Northern Europe recommends one orgasm a day. At [email protected]
But theres so much other stuff that disnae tie up, so I chucked that idea. Then I read this, well, most of it anyway. Based very much on Barthes, and claiming that any narrative that, like this one, explodes narrative and confounds readerly expectations is basically just doing that one job: showing us how narrative works. Or doesnae in this case.
all literature...should be a narrative, a flow of words in the service of an event which ‘makes its way’ toward its denouement or its conclusion: not to ‘narrate’ its object is, for the Book, to commit suicide. (Barthes)
So here we have a Book Suicide.

Buying it was fun though! Aye, this is one I actually picked up in a real life bookshop. Real bookshops are irresistible to me, even when Im just visiting ma Mam and Dad with weight restricted carry-on luggage only. But I knew this was due up soon at an on-line book group I belong to, its extremely thin and lightweight, so without further investigation I picked it up and carried it in my wee hot hands to the young man at the pay desk. Who gave me a distinctly strange look. @Well, I hope youre not too close to [email protected], and a sardonic and sympathetic look at my daughter who would be the one left to care for her batty old Mum when Ms Spark had sent her off the rails. So I read out the blurb on the back: @Lise... driven to distraction ... leaves everything behind her, transforms herself into a laughing, garishly dressed temptress and flies abroad on the holiday of a lifetime. But her search for adventure, sex and new experience takes on a far darker [email protected] Ha! I assured him that I got my kicks in books rather than real life, but now that I have been driven to distraction by Ms Spark, Im beginning to think that he was more concerned about the deleterious effect on my sanity that the reading process would bring than the fear that Ms Spark might inspire me to try for the garish temptress look. Im still working on that one.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
Muriel Spark had enough brains for two normal people but this little novel was almost completely stupid. It was like a terrible joke whose heavily adumbrated punchline is a tiresome and obvious inversion of normal reality, like a banana slipping on the skin of a man. You carry on reading this book, and it is very readable, and doesnt take long, because you cant believe what you are suspecting will be the outcome will really be the outcome, and it is, thats all, no explanation, no nothing. Sparks fans mutter that this is a masterpiece. John Lanchesters introduction says :

It is fair to say that The Drivers Seat is not one of her most famous books. That, I think, is because it doesnt tell us a single thing that we want to know.

(view spoiler)[ This is very true - I do not wish to know that this world is one in which a woman with a responsible job and a steady life freaks out one day and rushes about trying to find a man who will murder her; & having located him, has to cajole and persuade him into stabbing her to death. This kind of nonsense is called @[email protected] and @[email protected] by some people but I call it @[email protected] and @[email protected] (hide spoiler)]

Okay, as ever, I usually try to find something I liked in a book I hated, and this made me smile. The year is 1969 or 1970 and the protagonist Lise is with an old lady who is confused by all the social changes of the 60s. Theyre in a large department store. The old dear says

@Is she what they call a [email protected]
@This ones a hippy,@ says Lise, indicating with her head a slouching bearded youth dressed in tight blue jeans, no longer blue, his shoulders draped with an assortment of cardigans and fringed leather garments, heavy for the time of year.
Mrs Fiedke looks with interest and whispers to Lise
@They are hermaphrodites. It isnt their fault.

مشاهده لینک اصلی
** spoiler alert ** Lise, a suicidally unhappy woman in a dead-end job, travels to southern Italy to find someone to murder her. Lise, women like her, I have not infrequently heard referred to as @bitches on [email protected] She lies pathologically, casually steals cars, and perceives personal insults in matters that really have nothing to do with her. (She goes ballistic early on when told that a dress shes trying on is made of stain-resistant fabric. She thinks the salesperson, by stating this simple fact, means to call her a sloppy eater.) My favorite passages in the novella include the seduction of Lise undertaken by a macrobiotic diet fanatic, Bill, whose absurd monologues on Yin foods and Yang foods are hilarious. There is also Mrs. Friedke, an octogenarian, who tags along with Lise during shopping excursions. These jaunts devolve in time to a colloquy on who might or might not be @Lises man,@ with Mrs. Friedke blithely oblivious to the real purpose this fellow is to serve. The Drivers Seat may have served as one of Martin Amis models for his novel London Fields. In that longer book, another woman, Nicola Six, methodically sets out to locate her murderer. Needless to say, both women are successful. There are passages in both books, too, which self-describe them as @[email protected] as opposed to whodunits.

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