Friday, September 9, 2011

REVIEW: Silk by Alessandro Baricco


The year is 1861. Hervé Joncour is a French merchant of silkworms, who combs the known world for their gemlike eggs. Then circumstances compel him to travel farther, beyond the edge of the known, to a country legendary for the quality of its silk and its hostility to foreigners: Japan.

There Joncour meets a woman. They do not touch; they do not even speak. And he cannot read the note she sends him until he has returned to his own country. But in the moment he does, Joncour is possessed.

I love this book. It didn't take me a long time to read it. For one, it is a relatively short book. I think it is only a hundred pages long. More importantly though, it is due to the flow of the story. His words, his words are lyrical, flows easily; it has rhythm. His words are pure and simple, yet it is those words that take you deep into the heart of it.

If you look at the novel, you will find many aspects of the story you can focus on. Seeing as this is me, of course the main theme I took with me was that of love. Unrequited love, was it? No, it was much more than that, deeper than that. The protagonist [Hervé Joncour] falls hard for a Japanese concubine. They do not touch. They do not speak. Yet, something undeniable exists there. It is not without its complications though, as the girl is from a different country, a different culture, who belongs to someone else. Hervé, on the other hand, has a wife, Hélène. It is the interplay among these three characters that break my heart. How strong is their love for one another, how much courage will they display, how much sacrifice do they have to offer up, how long do they have to endure - all for this so called love? The last few chapters of the books truly captivate me. It is sensual. Oh, that letter given to him. How much passion can you gleam from it? How bold and firm and passionate, powerful and unmistakable? Only towards the end do you realize that, man, oh man. After that discovery, you go back and reread the whole thing and you see it in such a different light now.

Actually, I wanted to go back and reread this story right away. It is the kind of book that gets better every time you read it. You read it once, get a message from it; you read it again, and get somehing else altogether. Going back to his words, so simple and pure, you realize the depth of it, how he pieced it all together, how he picked these select words and combined them to affect the reader so, so much.

It is a strange grief. To die of nostalgia for something you will never live.

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