Literary atomism: from Juan José Saer’s ‘The Clouds’

In three or four days the bodies had reached, from the net of tissue and blood where they once struggled, from the constant pull and throbbing of doubt and passion gnawing at them, a freedom from the grueling chicanery of the particular and reached the immutability of universals through the white simplicity of their bones, passing first from subject to object and now, rediscovered by human eyes, from object to symbol.

Juan José Saer, The Clouds. Translated by Hilary Vaughn Dobel.

A journey after death, the coldness by which the particular is ascended to the universal (there is no way to humanize this). Saer paints decomposition as a transaction, more importantly, a reduction, or better still (“net”) a subtraction. What is lost is lost (and gained) only in the eye of the beholder, a trick of the lush narration, a foothold even for narrative authority. The narrator, not the author here, imbues humanity on simple bones, a godlike power on the flood- and fire-ravaged plains of Argentina.

Originally posted on a now-defunct blog somewhere in 2016.

— Joshua Rothes