Monday, January 4, 2016
This little book was a real gem. The story takes place over one day in the life of Jonathan, a man in his fifties, who, we are told in the opening lines, expects nothing further to happen in his life but death, one day. He liked predictability, he liked his safe existence, he liked to know where he stood in life. Standing, in fact, is what he spent his life doing. As a security guard in a bank, his function was to stand on the entrance steps, open the gate for the manager at the same time each day, and close it on his departure. This he did, day in, day out. Then one day, a pigeon arrives.
From this encounter, a series of misfortunes ensue. Jonathan has to deal with these, and moreover the internal chaos they create. We see his incapacity to deal with any uncertainty. His life is governed by fear, which has caused him to cocoon himself so. During the events of the day, we see how his mind works, we feel his terror and his fatalistic thinking, which grows more and more during the day. By the end of the story, he has had an epiphany. We are led to believe that a change has occurred. But very cleverly, the ending is ambiguous.
I loved this book. I could relate to Jonathan on many levels. From the outset, I sensed his impending breakdown. Cutting himself off from the world through such exacting routine diminishes his life. Rather than protecting him from danger, it makes him ever more anxious. Trusting people is not always easy; yet we need people. There is an expectation that life should expand as one grows. But often, we get stuck, or struck by fear. I often marvel at people who seem so naturally spontaneous, who say 'yes' to life. However the more I reflect on this, the more I wonder if the spontaneous instinct paradoxically grows in a person, by practising ever-increasing acts of courage, by challenging oneself out of ones comfort-zone. I read this book in French, a New-Year's resolution to persist with learning French. Ironically, though easy to read and understand, it presented me with another and a greater challenge: to say 'yes' to life; to trust people and the process of the Universe, that I might slowly allow the colours through and play like a child.