Timbuktu

this small essay on the book Timbuktu, by Paul Auster, is dedicated to and inspired by
Professor Ricardo Timm de Souza,
without whom I’d probably be still tamed to a very small leach.

I might be able to figure something out. Settle you in somewhere, take care of business. But my oomph is on the wane. I can feel it dribbling out of me, and one by one things are falling away. Bear with me, dog. I’ll rebound yet.. Once the discombobulation passes, I’ill give it the old college try again. If it passes. And if doesn’t, then I’m the one who will pass, n’est-ce pas? I just need a little more time. A few more minutes to catch my breath. Then we’ll see. Or not see. And if we don’t, then there’ll be nothing but darkness. Darkness everywhere, as far as the eye can’t see. Even down to the sea, to the briny depths of nothingness, where no things are nor will ever be. Except me. Except not me. Except eternity” (p.62)

Paul Auster’s book on the adventures of a fascinating dog called Mr. Bones caught my attention for a number of reasons. First of all, the way Auster does not picture the life of a man and his animal, but the relation between friends. It so happens that one of the friends there is a dog, but there is no question that the dog is never a mere pet – Mr. Bones is quite a character himself, with opinions and world views of his own. Mr. Bones, it seems, sees the world in all its open – he has the world. This dog dreams, expects and experiences life as a whole, He is not the animal that does not see the open, the animal that is closed in his own captivation. Still, Mr. Bones is prone to be misunderstood sometimes, since he cannot properly speak our language – except in dreams.

When asked what his name was, Mr. Bones reacts:

Buried among the twigs and dead leaves, he raised his head and emitted a series of three quick barks: wôof wôff woóf. It was a perfect anapest, with each syllable of his name accorded the proper stress, balance, and duration. For a few brief seconds, it was as if the words Mis|ter Bones had been boiled down to their sonorous essence, to the purity of a musical phrase. (p.99)

Tough Mr. Bones tries to reach the external world through his language, his signals are not so well interpreted, and he has to hope to be understood by his bare reactions. Though he thinks and acts in the world as a subject, as an alone individual – who feels lonely, who needs company, who relates to objects in the same way we do-, the limitations of his body hold him captive. However, Mr. Bones lives and struggles to stay alive, he does not intend nor accepts to spend his life inside a cardboard that is given him as home – but, as we do, Mr. Bones might settle for less than what he would like:

Willy had always attacked these things, railing agains them in that lopsided, comic way of his, but Willy had been on the outside looking in, and he had refused to give any of it a chance. Now that Mr. Bones was on the inside, he wondered where his old master had gone wrong and why he had worked so hard to spurn the trappings of the good life. It might not have been perfect in this place, but it had a lot to recommend it, and once you got used to the mechanics of the system, it no longer seemed so important that you were tethered to a wire all day. By the time you had been there for two and a half months, you even stopped caring that your name was Sparky. (p.158)

Mr. Bones has his life limited by a wire, but don’t we all? When realizing the way he had lived surrounded by little walls, Mr. Bones does not disclosure some secret of the essence of animality, but something about our own way of being – we are all wired and fragile in our everydayness, and most of times we settle just for the sake of comfort, or circumstances. In a dream, Mr. Bones talks to Willy, and complains that he is lonely, lost, and without identity. Willy then asks:

“Do you remember Mom-san, Mr. Bones?”

“Of course I remember her. What do you take me for?”

“Well, they tried to kill her, too. They hunted her down like a dog, and she had to run for he life. People get treated like dogs, too, my friend, and sometimes they have to sleep in barns and meadows because there’s nowhere else for them to go. Before you start feeling too sorry for yourself, just remember that you’re not the first dog who’s ever been lost” (p. 120)

Heidegger wrote on his seminar on metaphysics that the animal is captivated, and has a poverty of world. However, it seems that our bare life shares a status of fragility and loneliness with this captivation. We are also held in a same kind of relation with the world that limits our comprehension, and we share that with most animals with whom we relate. At least that is the case when we read Timbuktu, and when we think about our identification with animals as more than just pets, but subjects that might show us a thing or two about our own form of being.

One comment

  1. […] Posted by fabriciopontin under books   Excepcionalmente, vou publicar a resenha do livro no Heideggeriana, por dois […]

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