The drunker he gets the more he questions what is the physical attraction, the desire for sex, for physical love with Justine, or perhaps with anybody for that matter. He equates sex with drunkenness as he stumbles around the city’s red-light district, a drug that everyone wants and needs and that drives everyone to mad extremes just to feel … something.
The scene where he finds that Nessim’s telescope had been pointed at him and Justine in the hut (and at the tossed aside copy of King Lear – now that’s a portent) was chilling. And then when Nessim comes barreling down the dune in the back of the car firing at the birds and then thundering off, and earlier writing the word ‘beware’ in Greek in the sand was madness. Then his memory of the army … violence is coming
The point of view shifts a bit to look at Nessim as he goes about his day I’m assuming after he’s seen Justine cheating. It’s like we’re following him around like a PI. And I suppose all this is going to turn out bad for a lot of people based off the beautiful descriptions of how hot and arid everything is. First sickness, now a lack of water, yet Nessim is trying to build an oasis for a woman who does not love him.
So much illness everywhere in the novel, the people are sick, memories are ill, the city itself seems afflicted with a malady undetermined. Yet it is all so beautiful, such as how Clea paints the various lesions of the doctor’s patients. In fact you have to wonder how these sick people felt having this kindly woman deftly paint and pay attention to them and their ailments. Who wouldn’t want this attention at death?
The scene when the furrier – Melissa’s old lover – dying in the hospital is heartbreaking. Imagine being the kind of man he is (was), someone who did terrible things, and then on your deathbed have the lover of your lover come in and talk with you as you die. The amount of disappointment, of realizing how bad you fucked up in life, and how futile it all will be for is overwhelming.
End of part 1
“I feel as if heaven lay close upon the earth and I between them both, breathing through the eye of a needle.” He was alive but no longer existed: this is the dream state, the strange ether the book takes place in, a fever city of fumbling passion and crime and filth and people looking for love but having no idea what that even is and so they refuse to fall in love.
And now he an Justine have had sex
The book by Jacob which describes Justine, but is renamed for the book (yet he still reads as Justine), is fascinating because we are reading a book about an author remembering his time with Justine and then comes upon a book written by someone else who also knew her and so we get a mirror-world of a man looking at his life though someone else’s words. It has the effect of understanding her distance from them both.
The description of Justine’s childhood from her diary and the neighborhood she grew up in are extraordinary. The children’s hand prints on the walls (to keep the evil spirits away), the killing of the exhausted camel, “A house with an earthen floor alive with rats, dim with wicks floating upon oil”, “and everywhere the the veils, the screaming, the mad giggle under the pepper-trees, the insanity and the lepers.”
I did not plan on reading this on top of everything else, but this book (in fact the whole tetralogy) was recommended to me by Irwin at the bookstore. And I’m surprised how absorbed I am by it because I normally don’t go in for this sort of thing, but my goodness it’s beautifully written and he can create such fascinating characters with just a few words, such as the poor old furrier who lost Melissa.