Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Memory, History and the Experience of Travel

Wendt’s Black Rainbow, like Calvino’s Invisible Cities, moves between fantasy and reality, thus making it less of a travelling story and more of a mythical quest. The situation of the world is not fully explained in the first half of the book – only that it was in some kind of disarray and has been “saved” by some Orwellian World President. This adds both depth and mystery to the narrator’s journey. Most significantly, there is an emphasis on the connection between quest and memory since, in this world, memory (or history/herstory) is far less secure than it is in reality. Because the Tribunal and the Hunters have the ability to change or eliminate histories as they wish, the narrator’s quest or “search” takes on a different shape from that of the traditional traveler’s. Instead of beginning at Point A, ending at Point B and retaining the observations from the journey, the narrator’s contains a greater number of points jumbled in non-alphabetical order. He must return to Point A, get off track, travel without knowledge of his next move, and even wake up at a certain Point without any connection to or familiarity with his environment.
These elements of fantasy both play mind games on the narrator and affect the way he views his journey. When he travels through or stops at new places he is observant, descriptive, despite the fact that most people in his situation would allow the intricacies of the places the visit to slip by unheeded and focus solely on the welfare of his/her family. However, while it is true that one’s current mood affects the way they view new things and places, it is also true that the world in which one has grown up (or, in this case, to which he has become accustomed) shapes the way he observes new elements. Therefore it seems that the narrator’s observations are borne not out of a curious mood or disposition but due instead to the fact that, as he knows only too well, that which he has experienced could be erased at any moment, leaving his words as the only testament to it.

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