According to Thomas Heise, the original version of Moth – Or how I came to be with you again, (written in the depths of fever) was burnt after publication…Excited? I certainly was. This fact promises something intense, significant and personal. So, whether this provocative piece of information is a clever use of marketing or an actuality, it was at least a huge incentive to start reading.
However, at first I was overwhelmed. Within the first page Heise throws you into a world of both intimacy and alienation. He voices sentiments of such familiarity and personal content that they are almost nonsensical to the reader. The first line introduces an over-abundance of abstraction: ‘I remember when I touched my sleeping mother’s hair, it sparked in my hands and I thought she was inhuman, but I was young, and only years later would I understand she was under the spell of an erotic dream…’ Not the easiest introduction; with oedipal references, questions of reality and refracted meaning. Not only this, but the opening sentence carries on for three pages – the whole of the first chapter. The reader isn’t eased into this whirlwind of interiority and poetic experimentation. You hit the ground running – a difficult opening to say the least.
Perseverance pays off. In the depths of the first sentence Heise states: ‘I remember the gathering darkness of a thousand incidents I never witnessed, and yet bird by bird they separated themselves into moments of bright singularity’. These words (for me) describe the process of reading this novel. Patterns emerge, a language of the self slowly but surely begins to relinquish its meaning, and Heise’s obsessive exploration of memory and the mind starts to unfold. Memory becomes a multifaceted character, moving from real to false, from ugly to beautiful, from a destructive act to artistic creation. None of these ideals are championed and none are disregarded. But with his intricate use of language, symbols begin to separate and moments of stark simplicity peak through the waves of abstraction.
But these ideas – both personal and universal – are unconstrained by purpose. For me this was refreshing, as the novel is unshaped, and therefore startlingly honest. From Heise’s overwhelming torrents of emotion, to barren simplicity, the text produces a raw and unaltered insight into the mind of the narrator, remaining inconclusive and unapologetic till the end.
By Madelaine Isaac