June 23, 2021

We won't be able to hate Patricia Highsmith | Babelia

In his latest novel, The heart of EnglandJonathan Coe elaborates a theory about the world we live in. It has been said that it is a novel about Brexit and, of course, it is. But it goes much further. No, it is not a nostalgic novel, like the rest of its production. Coe has stopped recreating himself in everything he could have done and did not do because, he says, he has been afraid of the idea of ​​nostalgia. In his novels it was usual – let's think about Maxwell Sim's awful intimacy– that a character returned to a situation that he had lived with before – normally he was before the girl he had always liked and had not dared to tell him that he liked, condemning for infinite sadness for life – to do absolutely nothing . No, the theory about today's world that Coe elaborates on The heart of England It has nothing to do with nostalgia. And yet, somehow, he invokes his seemingly unimpaired perfection.

In one of the many conversations of the plot that, remember, recovers part of the cast of two of his previous novels –The Canallas Club and Closed Circle– and in a way never seen – as mere vehicles of action, in this case reflective and political, and not as the action itself -, one of the characters tells another that we do not live in a free world. Then and to the strangeness of his interlocutor, he adds that we live under a tyranny. The interlocutor shakes his head and says, believing that he is referring to the uncontrolled progress of Manichaeism in the early Brexit era, that David Cameron, then even British Prime Minister, does not seem like a tyrant. And the other says that he is not referring to a person. That the tyrant may not be a person, he says. The tyrant can be an idea. "What idea?" Asks the other. The politically correct, responds the character. "It's what that character thinks," Coe clears when asked if he believes it too.

If what that character thinks is true, the news of the next publication of Patricia Highsmith's diaries —We deduced that a selection, because the pack Complete would include more than 8,000 pages — it would not be good news for those who love his work and his figure, powerful, tormented, taxable. Highsmith could have thrown in the towel from the beginning – it is known, and hence his obsession with devising deaths in the bosom of the family and the couple, that his mother tried to get rid of her by drinking turpentine while pregnant – but she did not. What he did was try to understand, in his crooked and runaway way, why the human being – why a mother – can become so horrible. Hence his murderers — from the bohemian couple of Imaginary crimes, my favorite, even the pair of strangers who plan to exchange victims in Strangers on a train– Always be ordinary people who riot, for a fatal moment, the animal without empathy that they hide. Highsmith radiographed our Mr. Hyde and allowed himself, because he was always on the edge of that abyss, to hide just from his own.

That's how Highsmith lived, making perfect projectile-like projectiles that were almost always portraits of an obsession or a handful of obsessions — let's think about Carol but also in the charming and lethal Ripley— of uncontrolled psyches that for a moment see the light and they know that the only way out is to commit the fatal act they end up committing. Sometimes, always really, I read Highsmith and imagine her reworking, without knowing it, or knowing it a little, more and more, the same theory: my mother was not a bad person but she was. He was not a bad person, but for a moment – when he drank that turpentine – he was. For his biographer, Andrew Wilson, who read his diaries at the time, Highsmith "created a world in which the moral limit does not exist, dominated by the irrational, in which logic and common sense disappear when the darker side of the human takes control" . In that world, his mother was still his mother. It fit. It was like the rest. He was not a monster.

It is scary to think, so Wilson advances from his diaries – which will arrive in 2021, published in Spanish by Anagrama – that today's world judges the turbulent Highsmith for what he told himself in a notebook. He felt the same compassion – that is, none – for men than for women, Wilson says, in a recent interview. "Like Sylvia Plath, she seemed obsessed with leaving down the smallest detail of her day-to-day life," she says. Reflect on loneliness, guilt, obsession – his diaries contain the complete account of the department store customer with whom he became obsessed and would end up giving rise to Carol, actually, The price of salt, the novel on which the movie starring Cate Blanchett was based-, but also throws darts against everything he hates. “I hated Jews and blacks in a completely irrational way; She was also a lesbian who hated women, something difficult to claim for feminism, ”continues Wilson.

Was Highsmith so politically incorrect that "it will be necessary to see," says Wilson, "in what way does his figure fit in contemporary culture," being, as we are, according to said Coe character, under the tyranny of the politically correct. "No writer would want his secrets exposed," Highsmith wrote in a letter to a friend in 1940. "It would be like undressing in public," he added. “We are not going to censor anything,” said his editor, Anna Von Planta, when asked about the way the newspapers were going to reach the reader. "What we want is to discover how Patricia Highsmith became Patricia Highsmith," he added. It would be unthinkable, I tell myself, that the monstrous was excised from someone who dedicated his whole life to trying to understand the monster inside us. The reader's task is now to try to understand her. Understand that the creator is not an unpolluted being, but pure collection of edges. What is every work but an attempt, desperate and doomed to fail, to try to hit them until they disappear?


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