Literature │ The Fog Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron
(published in "Avrupa" newspaper)
When someone hears the name Styron, one immediately thinks of Sophie’s Choice and what a talented writer he is, and most certainly in the same league as William Faulkner, they don’t think about his troubled soul. When one thinks of depressive writers and memoirs, most of us think of Elizabeth Wurtzel’s confessional Prozac Nation, or Plath’s The Bell Jar, but here we have an account of depression from a male perspective. Through time, we have been aware of the artist and madness which Styron touches upon in his memoir, such as Van Gogh, Camus, Virginia Woolf, Diane Arbus, Mark Rothko, to name a few. When one picks up Styron’s Darkness Visible(1989) , they already know that this is a rare read, one in which a man outwardly proclaims that he had been gripped in the cycle of madness and needed help. Styron’s illness lead him to a sanitarium which he swears saved his life, even though his psychiatrist who he calls Dr.Gold, steered him away from the hospital due to the stigma which it’s attached to.
Through a very confidant and sure voice, Styron shares his beliefs and experience with this dehibilitating disease which he believes not to have an appropriate name, he believes that the more older word melancholia justifies the severity of it better than the mere word depression. Styron paints a very accurate picture through language, using words and phrases such as “excruciating near – paralysis.” One of his first descriptions of depression can be found in the first chapter where he states, “Depression is a disorder of mood so mysteriously painful and elusive in the way it becomes known to the self- to the meditating intellect- as to verge close to being beyond description.” Through much of Styron’s “unfocused stirrings” he does make it out the other end, hence the ability to tell his story.
The subject is one of much anguish, frustration and question of mortality, which is why one of the strongest elements of his writing is his awareness. Through much of his depression and final breakdown which was when he was in his sixties, he was terribly aware of his mood and was somehow able to note each phase of his decline into the dark murky fog. His account is not highly charged in the sense that he does not purge his soul in an “out of control” manner, yet his emotions and pain are heavily present, weighing down the pages with hefty words that mirror the illness itself. It is his ability to successfully separate his present, healthier self, from the severely depressed, and near suicidal self which allows him to tell us his story in a very matter of fact manner without being cold and medical. He discusses the taboo of suicide and its effect on families and friends, although it is a morbid subject, it needs to be discussed nevertheless, and Styron is aware of the urgency to do so. Styron’s account is refreshing, it started off as a lecture and later turned into a very short memoir which could reach a greater audience, Darkness Visible is certainly a helpful read to those who want a more personal account of the illness or for those who know someone who suffers from it and do not quite understand it. I shall leave you with an extract from Milton’s Paradise Lost Book 1, lines 63-69 which is a description of hell and an influence on Styron’s choice of title;
“No light, but rather darkness visible
Served only to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all, but torture without end
Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed
With ever-burning sulphur unconsumed.”
Literature │ Who’s the King of the Jungle now? The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
(published in "Avrupa" newspaper)
Adiga’s The White Tiger pulls you in immediately with its persuasive narrative hook, this hook is such a clever ruse that it can not possibly fail. What is this devious hook you’re wondering? Well it is the promise that a very interesting tale is about to be told and a true depiction of Bangalore, India is about to be revealed. The White Tiger (2008) won the man booker prize that year; Adiga depicts the crippling poverty and corruption that runs throughout most of India, and the way in which it is a situation that doesn’t look as though it is going to be resolved any time soon.
In the first instance, one notes Adiga’s sense of humor, a humor that is quite unique to Indian writers such as Arundhati Roy; the French and Russian are satirical, the English tend to keep the pink elephant in the room, and the Americans are predictably rebellious, but the Indians tend to have a rather strong sense of humor, but this humor is black and a mask, falling into line with the saying that when you can no longer cry, laugh. When a teacher asks Balram what his name is, he replies, ‘munna’ which means boy, and when the teachers declares that he must have a name, Balram replies that his mother was too ill to name him and nobody ever bothered to, so the teacher names him Balram instead, this is the kind of humor that runs throughout the book. Along side the humor, producing a striking contrast, is the sheer poverty that permeates the story, and this is done by personifying India as having two identities which are; the India of light and the India of darkness.
Adiga touches upon religion briefly in a complacent manner, Balram runs through a list of some of the gods and why they are worshipped, but his belief in them is familiar to the belief that a child holds when forced to believe, and now, as an adult, his belief is wrapped in hatred and mockery. Balram is born into a poor family which bares the name of a sweet maker and is therefore immediately allocated a position in society. Once one is assigned their rightful place through birth, there is no room for maneuver what so ever, and therefore, your fate is sealed, and this is why Balram has a very interesting tale to tell.
Balram’s story is one of escape, an escape from what he refers to as being stuck in a rooster coop, for even when the rooster spots an escape, they will not embrace freedom but remain entrapped within the coop, fated for a clear sharp end. Balram is aware of his iron-clad cage and does not wish for the poverty cycle in which he is churning in, to continue, so he makes his escape, how he succeeds in his escape, raises a number of moral questions that one has to consider, but one also has to weigh up the unforgiving struggle that he is in. He acknowledges that revolutions happen all over the world, but would never take place in India as the weak are too tiered to fight and the strong remain powerful. The imagery of the land and the people are raw and truthful, but how truthful I ask myself? Adiga has witnessed the poverty himself, but his ability to penetrate the essence of it is a wonder, as he himself grew up in a decent background with a father who was a doctor, attending New York University and being taught in Oxford by the famous biographer Hermione Lee, but this I shant hold against him, as he has depicted a long lasting image of India in my mind. This novel is certainly worth picking up if one wants to draw in a deeper understanding of the frustrating, tiresome and soul breaking relationship between a servant and master, for it is one that is akin to the relationship between a battered spouse who can not step away. Adiga’s distinctive voice is not only succinct, and vibrant, but also a voice that should be heard.
Şifa Mustafa took part in the Friends of the Horniman 2009 Art Exhibition on the 4th & 5th of July, exhibiting a few of her own pieces and it was quite a success. The venue was the sweltering hot conservatory but that didn’t stop one from viewing the range of art work that was on offer; from those that had it as a hobby, to professionals such as Pat Rae and of course the youngest exhibitor, Şifa Mustafa. Here are a few pieces for you to enjoy.