Review of The Brueghel Moon by Tamaz Chiladze
This review contains spoilers, but no more than you would get by reading the interview with the author at the start of the book.
Let's start on the first page, in the interview with Chiladze (I'm not quite sure who is interviewing him, the book itself or the aliens or the translator or a random person):
[A] writer is the last surveying representative of the ancient caste of clairvoyants or oracles.
A very astute quote as I had a weird, anticipatory relationship with this book. Each time I thought "What's going on here?" or "Why did we go through all that stuff with Ia and Tamriko" (I've also established that my new favourite name is Ia) or "How does this all tie together", the the next page, bam it's answered. Clearly, we have the relationship between author and reader that he discusses in the introduction. So me and Chiladze, hanging out, him waiting for me to get to the next part, at least in some sort of weird, metaphysical readers/authors space.
Yeah, and that's not even the weird part of the story. We haven't got there yet.
The Brueghel Moon is a novella about a psychiatrist, Levan, who has a former patient, Nunu, visit him, then he goes to a garden party, and gets involved with the wife of an ambassador, Ana-Maria. Actually, the time line is a bit messed up so Levan might have gone to the garden party and then had Nunu visit him. It doesn't matter; the point of the book isn't about time. There's only ninety pages, so not much can happen. Levan, who starts out the book whining about white man problems, i.e. he's middle class and bored and unfulfilled and self-sabotaging, spends a fair amount of the book whining about white man problems and ends the book still trapped in his white man problems. Ana-Maria also whines a fair deal about her rich white woman problems, i.e. she's rich and bored and unfulfilled and self-sabotaging. Nunu doesn't whine so much. Instead, she talks about how she had sex with aliens and begat a child and I would say this was a spoiler except it's pretty much discussed in the opening interview of the first four or five pages of the book, completely ruining any surprise or impact that alien sex (very vanilla and barely described, besides the alien appears to be roughly human) might have had. Come on. Alien, out of nowhere versus alien foretold? Alien out of nowhere has got to win at all costs.
In any case, the alien story comes around and joins with the Ana-Maria story, all nicely wrapped up in a bow, and it's kind of satisfying. I appreciate in a novel with a psychiatrist, there's none of this "Is Nunu's story real or is Nunu's story a hallucination" subplot because I'm totally over that as a literary device. I don't really know why Ana-Maria would be interested in Levan, other than I guess he was kind to her. He's too whiny for my taste. Levan seems interested in Ana-Maria for the reason men are often interested in women in stories: she is attractive. Other than that, her personality is kind of dull too. Nunu was pretty awesome, but, likely as to her growing up under Soviet rule, she's a bit passive and accepting of what happens to her too, although her escape from the mental hospital was pretty awesome. You go Nunu, you get your whistle and march on away.
Still, and I feel I need to keep belabouring this point, there are aliens that appear in this novella. Aliens.
The narrative switches around, first person, second person, third person, back to first. We get to see inside Levan and Nunu's head, never Ana-Maria's, but since Ana-Maria seems to vocalize every thought she has to Levan, we're likely not missing much. The switching narrative voice works pretty well with the swaps sometimes being so subtle that it takes a page or two before you realize that now we're back inside Levan's head or the like. Normally narrative switching bothers me, but this was done well. Conversations seem artificial, a lot of "Now I will explain some point" but I don't know how the Georgian language works, so maybe that's more a structure of the language and the translation. There's a few shout-outs to Tolstoi: happy families becoming unhappy and the like. It's a decent, short read. I'm glad it wasn't any longer.
Really, I don't know what else to say. Aliens.
The Brueghel Moon by Tamaz Chiladze went on sale January 13, 2015.
I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.