Ciaran Carson lets the reader plunge into remembrances of Gabriel who has lost his love Nina in a car crash. Carson creates strong images with his poems, but leaves the reader grasping a leitmotif that seems to appear but eludes again. Nina remains a figure that is mysterious and covered. The reader sometimes even gets the impression that Gabriel is asking himself in his remembrances who he loved: Peace p. 105
So carefully did you measure your words it seemed to me
you rarely said what first came to mind. You reserved judgement.
Or: Pas de Deux page 26
It took us some time to establish our identity
For you'd learned where you came from to choose your words
And often you'd seal my lips with a kiss as silently (...)
What is she hiding? What the reader gets to know about her is that she speaks French, English and German. She was in Paris, Berlin and Dresden. Her mother is French, (one?) of her aunts was in the résistance during World War II and her uncle used to collect watches. She was an interrogator probably as Stasi agent: The Shadow p. 30
The lie is memorized, the truth is remembered, he said.
I learned that early on in their school before I became
interrogator. That was after I learned to listen
in. They played many tapes of many stories, some true, some
false. I was asked to identify which was which, and where
the conversations might have taken place, whatever time.
You've told me that story more than once, more than once telling
me something I never heard before until then, telling
it so well I could almost believe I was there myself,
for all that I was at the time so many miles away.
Carson amazingly creates these intimate images of the two lovers, which dissolve in distance that reoccurs like a theme in a fugue. The cleft between them almost seems palpable.
Nina shows fragments of her that do not quite form a whole. In between the lines she seems to yell that he has no clue who she is. In the chapter "Filling the Blank" p. 104 it is described what and who she could be:
I'm the lady behind the counter of the Mont Blanc shop
who says what a nice hand when you try out one of her pens.
I'm the lady you write to when she's far away from home
though by the time the letter gets there she might have moved on.
I'm the lady in charge of the airport lingerie store
who asks you if there is anything she can help you with.
I'm the lady in question whose dimensions you reveal
to the lady in charge of the airport lingerie store.
I'm the lady you bump into unwittingly before
you know her name age or what she does for a living.
These are a lot of options to choose of - and a lot of "blank" space for projection. Carson succeeds to "paint" a picture of a lover who has lost someone beloved. The reoccurring remembrances that chase each other, always the same, varied ones, which try to find key moments that alleviate the fact of accepting loss.
A very moving work!