A puzzle in the service of love and writing

Book: Novel·la, Pol Beckmann

The debut novel by young Pol Beckmann (Barcelona, 1991), that has received the Llibreter 2019 award in the category of other literatures, is a multi-faceted literary game.

The debut novel by young Pol Beckmann (Barcelona, 1991), that has received the Llibreter 2019 award in the category of other literatures, is a multi-faceted literary game. From the start, it is notable how assuredly he is ready to stretch the seams of the narrative device, beginning with the title and continuing with the erratic personality that he gives the characters and, above all, the protagonist, Bekman. His similar name is not only playful, but it also proclaims the role that he will play as the author’s torn and neurotic alter ego. Hurried by the agents and usual tics of the publishing world, Bekman, whose name lacks a C and another N when referring to the protagonist of the story, is a writer who falls in love easily and is trying to finish a novel and continue a career of achievement (as can be seen, the humour is thriving with hyperbole, in splashes at times surrealistic and at times naïve). He who begins as an ingenuous boy who loses his head with each change of romantic interest and flight of passion, twists and turns to paradoxically make the nature of the game that he is playing increasingly clear: one or many fragments of a novel inside the novel, a splitting of planes between reality and fiction, between idyllic love and spent love, between creation and routine, which rattles Bekman and at times drives him mad.

With concise language, the author avoids a drawn-out style and focuses on the desire to create effective images to describe the playful tricks he is pulling off in a well put together puzzle. The characters act as puppets in movement, the threads holding them are shown without the machinery annoying us, with especially masterful passages such as the episodes of Mr Bled and his sick-man worries. Novel·la marches through the parody of love, the very act of writing and the publishing industry. On some pages, the parody is a bit overboard or has less convincing touches of ingenuity; on others, it takes a more subtle effect or a more original joy. What is clear, however, is that the game does not remain on a single plane. Thus, for example, the idea of the writer disoriented by his own fiction manages to travel down new paths when Bekman faces himself, with fun split dialogues, when he has to kill off one of his characters and when other characters wonder if they have been forgotten (the author’s fainting before one of his literary loves is a moment to savour).

‘Uncle’ Trabal watches us

Although it may not be intentional, perhaps for those things of the collective unconscious, there is an air of Francesc Trabal flying over the novel and that matches it with the recent republication of the work of the native son of Sabadell by Quaderns Crema. In fact, Beckmann’s novel means that the publishing house founded by Jaume Vallcorba is again publishing a new voice ten years later.

Without losing its playfulness, a certain refreshing lightness defines the tone of the novel, endowing it with a brisk rhythm. In any case, however, the reader never quite gets lost in the labyrinth of fantasy and raw reality, emotions, doubts and dislocated obsessions that do indeed end up weaving a spider’s web that ensnares the protagonist. Though parts of this spider’s web are familiar, above all the air is festive.

The author laughs at the difficulties and excuses of the writer, the crossroads where he runs aground, of the artificiality of the sector (with comical exaggeration), the looks of incomprehension that he has to endure and the conceit that he carries around. Beckmann the writer constantly shows the paths imagined by the brain when it is about to exploit the alter ego, the set of possibilities and bifurcations in history that play the role of literary (but also life) choices. These bifurcations and the diverse points of view that they provide firmly prop up the game that Beckmann has set in motion and draws his innovation beyond an exercise of style or mere diversion.

Novel·la [Novel],

Pol Beckmann

Quaderns Crema

Barcelona, 2018

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