George R. Saunders: CivilWarLand In Bad Decline

Den her overraskede mig. En sortsynet, galgenhumoristisk nærfremtidsdystopi bestående af en samling noveller (og en lidt længere historie) om dumme, snæversynede og intrigante mennesker. Virkelig sjovt skrevet på sin egen mærkelige måde.

I have a sense that God is unfair and preferentially punishes his weak, his dumb, his fat, his lazy. I believe he takes more pleasure in his perfect creatures, and cheers them on like a brainless dad as they run roughshod over the rest of us. He gives us a need for love, and no way to get any. He gives us a desire to be liked, and personal attributes that make us utterly unlikable. Having placed his flawed and needy children in a world of exacting specifications, he deducts the difference between what we have and what we need from our hearts and our self-esteem and our mental health.

Egentlig lidt svær lige at finde sig til rette i til at starte med. Men når man så får fornemmelse for stemning og flow (ja, det er et mærkeligt sted og der kommer aldrig en opklaring på hvorfor), så er der noget, der klikker, synes jeg.

Det er meget veloplagt fortalt, og der bliver stablet nogle fine tableuaer og kuriøse situationer sammen. Det er sådan lidt Cohen-brødrene møder Catch 22. Og så bare sat i et Amerika, hvor civilisation er erstattet af kaos, hvor det frie marked er løbet løbsk, hvor teknologien nærmest er gået baglæns og hvor æresbegreber er vendt helt på hovedet. Læg dertil noget mutanteri, nogle mærkelige temaparker, en til tider arkaisk-komisk sprogbrug og en masse andre særheder, så bliver det virkelig sjovt.

Her er vi i den temapark, der giver bogen sin titel (”CivilWarLand”), hvor en gæst vist er faldet i vandet.

One day she’s sitting cross-legged a few feet away from a Dumpster housed in a granite boulder made of a resilient synthetic material. Ned, Tony, and Gerald as usual are dressed as Basques. In Orientation they learned a limited amount of actual Basque so that they can lapse into it whenever Guests are within earshot. Sister Viv’s a regular so they don’t even bother. I look over to say something supportive and optimistic to her and then I think oh jeez, not another patron death on my hands. She’s going downstream fast and her habit’s ballooning up. The fake Basques are standing there in a row with their mouths open. So I dive in and drag her out. It’s not very deep and the bottom’s rubber-matted. None of the Basques are bright enough to switch off the Leaping Trout Subroutine however, so twice I get scraped with little fiberglass fins. Finally I get her out on the pine needles and she comes to and spits in my face and says I couldn’t possibly know the darkness of her heart. Try me, I say. She crawls away and starts bashing her skull against a tree trunk. The trees are synthetic too. But still.

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