"Every poem, in time, becomes an elegy. (…) There are no other paradises besides the lost ones."
Jorge Luis Borges, “Posesión del Ayer” (The Possession of Yesterday)
There are certain moments in our existence in which we plunge into some kind of abysmal contemplation, into the pure despair in the search for complex, definitive senses. These are the moments when, awake, we seem to have just emerged from a nightmare, those richly ornamented with sinister details of which we retain only a small part, which allows our awakening to be bitter, a rather poor relief. In these moments we think of certain abstractions, perhaps of our mortality (or the mortality of all beings, or of those we eventually love), but our thoughts are focused, with special acuteness, on the fortuitous character of existence and a certain notion of justice, and logic. Chaotic causality appears, in our eyes, as diabolical; because we seek an understanding that escapes from our hands, ruthlessly, so that a new world rises on our horizon, a world more sad and rough. We would like the world to obey the most beneficial arrangement possible, but this happy thought is just that: a ghost generated by anxiety in controlling the devastation of our grief. I can say that this dizzying sensation, so tricky to define and that seems to lead our consciousness to continuous dead ends, was that I felt at the knowledge of the death of Avalon Brantley, brilliant young talent who was not limited to the universe Literary that the French call littérature fantastique, but which expanded in a complex way by multiple and diversified landscapes.
But, perhaps, this feeling that I have tried to describe above, in this case, can be classified as just an indiscretion on my part. For indeed, I was not a close or dear friend to Avalon Brantley. I have not even met her in person: our communication can be summed up by the exchange of electronic messages – some of them related to her participation in the Booklore collection – and an excellent interview that she gave me and which is published on my blog. It is necessary to emphasize that this meagre direct communication gave me the impression that Avalon was a person of good will, sensitive and of kind-hearted. In any case, I know little of her physical appearance, personal tastes, political choices or daily dramas. I was not part of her inner circle of friends and family, nor was I aware of the pain of the members of that circle, especially when they discovered her death. However, in fact, there was a possible connection, the only one in such cases, that established itself from a remote or recent past, between the creator of a story and the one who appreciates that work. For the extraordinary writings of Avalon enable an incredible experience to the reader – therefore a peculiar and intense communion. I remember the vivid impression of reading what I consider – from my point of view as a reader – to be Avalon's first masterpiece, coincidently her first published work, the Aornos tragedy, published in 2013. I hold dearest memories of the little books in this series, of the few that I have acquired, so precious and beautiful, and which were fundamental in many later decisions of my life. But I must return to Aornos: it is a tragedy, a play but, in fact, it goes directly to the reader who flips through its ardent pages, proposing an extremely exquisite and daring experience, a visionary form of Theater for the mind, so complex in evoking its elements and in the effect of its irony. The flow of the mythological and religious elements of antiquity is intoxicating; It seems that we are facing some lost and particularly perverse creation by some author of ancient Greece. It is very difficult to escape the sense of destructive inevitability of fate when, at the end of the play, we find ourselves like that chorus of cicadas conjuring the presence of a fearsome female in a catastrophe nourished by true love.
That was only the first book by Avalon, her spectacular presentation to the world; other creations would emerge, both materialized in books and contributions to collections. Unfortunately, I do not own all these works – I am not a consummate collector, specializing in completing a given collection of literary butterflies, such as those editors chosen to preface the complete editions of certain authors in the series “Bibliothèque de la Pléiade”. But some of them, which deserve mention, I had the pleasure and honor to read. All these works point out a secure fluidity between different genres, formats and conceptions – some of extreme radicalism – but also an acute perception of the ironic, cruel traps of fate that the author had already so well represented in Aornos from the tragic perception of existence nurtured in antiquity. Thus, shortly after Aornos, we have a collection of short stories, Descended Suns Resuscitate. The golden cover has a marbled texture that is extraordinarily tactile, while a small circular hole points to the symbolic and photographic clue to certain elements of the book, notably a certain atmosphere of inevitable, painful nostalgia. The tales, set in floating historical landscapes, are dominated at the same time by the overwhelming perception of fate and a really exquisite sense of humor. In this sense, it is worth mentioning a narrative like "The Last Sheaf”, which presents a balance between these two poles that were obsessively revisited by the author. The final tale, called "Kali-Yuga", presents this visionary characterization that already transpired in Aornos and that would grow in terms of conceptual sophistication in her later writings. Apparently dissatisfied with the tragic closure offered by fate in its cunning configurations, she would seek in the image of creation/destruction, increasingly freed from its limitations, new syntheses.
Thus, the next release would be Transcensience, the penultimate full book of Avalon, written in collaboration with Locket Hollis. The book jacket in neutral, icy, creamy color, revealing Egon Schiele's fine incisive features and the initials of the author and co-author on the spine, just AB/LH. In the frontispiece, very appropriately, a frame of the film Le Sang d'un poete, by Jean Cocteau. In the book, brief narratives, poems and poetry in prose alternating, making the book unstable, a challenge to this perennial search by every reader for something near to the sense of fullness and harmony, the security of stability in literary terms. But instability isn’t the same as inconsistency, the fragility hidden by the mask of certain formal dances; on the contrary, the book presents a thematic identity around the idea of death, of the passage, of the threshold, of the ineluctable. In this sense, there is a constant fluctuation in the approach of these concepts, between poetic subjectivity and narrative objectivity, between the pathos of poetry and the necessity of verisimilitude eventually imposed by the narrative. The heart of the book is precisely the brief narrative "The Far Rest", a title that carries a anagrammatic game with the threatening "forest" that haunts the whole tale. By breaking the boundaries between poetic subjectivity and narrative objectivity, Avalon reaches the paroxysm of despair in this brief narrative, culminating in an utterly visceral longing – which is expressed by a fragmented language – by a lovely, immense potential god. It is a deepening and subversion of what we have seen so far in Avalon, from Aornos; for it, at the same time, has subverted the general boundaries between narrative and poetics in the same way that it recovers some of the deepest yearnings and anxieties of the literature of the past. What she had done with the Greek tragedy, she accomplished, in Transcensience, with the romantic poetry of the nineteenth century. But the truth is that the deepening imagery and the increasingly direct narrative formulation of despair showed, indirectly perhaps, her suffering, a suffering that threatened to isolate her subjectivity definitively, with the ultimate abandonment of writing.
However that was not what happened. I mentioned Avalon's various contributions to collections published by small publishers in 2016 and early 2017, a “particularly productive year” in Avalon's own words. They are small jewels not only in the sense of the astounding quality of this material but also by the altruistic nobility expressed in her will to expose the demons themselves, to exorcise them, to sublimate them into literary works, for the scrutiny of the public, that she sensed perhaps sensitive. Among these material, I would like to highlight three extraordinary creations whose analytical reading could indeed feed into academic research if it were not so far removed from the more vanguardist reality of literature by the compact walls of self-complacency. The first of them is "Nocternity", which presents the most visionary side of Avalon already in its title, a strange fusion between "Nocturnal" and "Eternity". The tendencies of Transcensience become even more radical: the alternation between verse and prose builds less a dance between poetry and prose and much more a kind of liturgical hymn, the multilayered evocation of new and old gods. That is, a unique construction because of its intricacy, which plunges the reader into myth directly, abandoning the usual conventions of literary genre. But this diving would be the prelude to an even more ambitious work: "Corpus". According to the author herself, the inspiration for "Corpus" (the very significant subtitle is "A Mandala of Anatomy and Metaphysiology") came from certain works by Andrei Biely, such as Kotik Letaev and Glossolalia. It is the author's version of the biblical Genesis, a union between the broad perspective of the universe and the intimate development of consciousness in a unique form of synchrony, in which language fragments into pieces corresponding to sensations, to the potential link between the boundless and most profoundly personal. The editors perceived the importance of this piece, so original: in fact, “Corpus” not only follows a unique format within the collection (in two columns), but is the only one immediately illustrated. In a way, it is the apex of visionary work and the subversion of literary forms and genres by Avalon. It would be expected that the author would later adopt more and more radical forms of disruption with narrative and poetic structures and even with language. But behold, the multifaceted personality of Avalon arises and presses into another, somewhat surprising, way. It is a path subtly indicated by herself at the end of her extraordinary mandala, when she states "god left the house”.
This path begins to be indicated in the third piece I selected, "A Dead Man's House”. After experiments in the borders of language and the subversion of the usual literary structures, Avalon returns to the fantastic tale, a genre that she has approached so skillfully in her Descended Suns Resuscitate. "A Dead Man's House” is a tale about the potential existence of books considered lost, with astounding developments and speculation. The reader's imagination is spurred on by the imaginary reconstruction of such vanished volumes which, in the end, receive a fateful and liberating destiny, a spectacular auto-de-fé in the same vein of previous rituals performed by Elias Canetti in Die Blendung and Jakob Wasserman in Das Gänsemännchen. This renewed return to narrative sources, on the other hand, marks the last book of Avalon, the novel The House of Silence. It is, at first glance, a tribute to William Hope Hodgson, especially to his The House of the Borderland. But the last story (which, curiously, would be her first novel) of Avalon is much more than that; a visionary narrative, although quite simple, that takes up with great freedom the tropes of the weird and horror genre. The visionary radicalism of the author's earlier works, which seek a break in the relationship between language and objective/subjective reality, still manifests itself here (there was also something of this breakdown in the narrator's role in "A Dead Man's House") but in a subtle and controlled way. It is in the dream universe and in the sensory perceptions (even the simplest) of the protagonist and of the other characters that one realizes the potentiality of this break in the fabric of the real. Revealing to the reader the horror of the limits of perception and rationality in a cadenced rhythm, by its perceptible edges, Avalon revealed an extraordinary awareness in the construction of this long and fascinating narrative – her last one, unfortunately.
In her work, Avalon Brantley demonstrated the limits of language and perception, the misleading separation between the individual microcosm and the collective macrocosm, the subtle and sadistic traps of fate, the abysmal and evocative vertigo of the Vision, this form of apprehension of universal knowledge adopted by Swedenborg or Blake or so many others before herself (and many others later, I hope). The rereading of her work becomes a painful and moving exercise in the light of her death, but we must interpret it further, for death – in more than one sense – is not the end. Pier Paolo Pasolini understood death as a final cut in the long take of life; a final cut that concatenated the previous acts in an edition full of meaning. We could go further (inspired even by Pasolini's own terrible death): the definitive cut in the film of life with the death is in some cases an enigmatic product whose apparently clear sense holds as many possibilities as secrets. Following this line of thought, though the shock of loss may exist, Avalon left a long and enigmatic narrative represented by her works and the mysteries of her sadly short existence. And even though I regret not knowing her better, I know that I can revisit the brilliant, animated by a everlasting fresh existence in her works.
Not by chance, one of Avalon's last testimonies makes it very clear that she, like Blanqui and Nietzsche (or Borges), believed in the infinite plurality of worlds, of existences, of lives. In one of these plural worlds she continues to build her work, sung by aoidos and other vagabonds or poets like the songs of a close brother, Homer.
This piece would not be possible without the generous collaboration, reading and suggestions by Jonas Ploeger and Jonathan Wood.