- Air Apparent
274 Pages; Print, $16.00
Jorge Armenteros' latest novel, The Roar of the River, is a sequel to his earlier work, Air (2016). Although it can be read independently, the reader benefits from reading both in sequence. In this new novel, he takes even more risks with structure, language, and perspective, weaving a hypnotic thread along the physical and metaphorical river that gives the book its title. It leads us from the illusions of our past into the possibilities of a more authentic reality through the roar of our distorted belief systems and misapprehensions. This latest work gives us the main character of The Striped Tunic once again. But he and other characters are emblematic, mostly devoid of proper names, functioning as archetypal representations of mythical proportion. Armenteros writes in experimental but lucid prose that breaks traditional barriers yet remains accessible.
The Striped Tunic moves into a town in the French Alps, attempting to leave behind his past in the Moroccan enclave seen previously in Air. As in the earlier novel and with the new characters he meets, he observes, "they wanted me to tell their truths, but they did not want to listen." He speaks of the human desire for tenderness, not just of physical relationships but the intimacy for genuine, compassionate spirits. We are blind to our own motivations, victims of circumstances, and unable to remain rooted in our truth and moral compass, shifting ourselves to accommodate misunderstood conditions and situations. As The Striped Tunic pleads, "I need life back, not memories of past lives, but life undead."
This is no meandering ride but an estuary leading to the deepest, most thoughtful journey, ever shifting and circulating like the river of blood within our physical being. Armenteros reinforces this sentiment with the epigraph of Heraclitus of Ephesus at the book's beginning: "No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man."
Nadya, the young woman who aligns with The Striped Tunic, observes they are both outcasts. They are leaving their past and those who cannot see them as other than reflections of their families, culture and other prescribed affiliations behind. Nadya's older sister is stuck in the paradigm of her mother's imprint, stating, "we're just my mother's daughters, nothing else." Nadya sees possibilities beyond this restrictive thinking and says of The Striped Tunic that "he takes me by the hand, as if my hand were his country." This is linking with a simpatico soul.
The Striped Tunic realizes that our "sense of belonging arises from false expectations." He encounters others who represent facets of human character that react and respond based on experiences and wounds that color and distort their reality. The odor that follows The Striped Tunic is the accumulation of a past he must cleanse. Whenever he removes the tunic, others are offended and confused by his nakedness or true self. He says that he "keep(s) my body wrapped in this tunic to contain the brutality." That brutality is the very essence of human nature and its myriad implications with the impetus of fear residing at its core.
No truth is ascertained when one is consumed with fears that obscure the connection to the intuitive self. We live in the ruins of our past as hostages to belief systems instilled in us by others. The "beast" Armenteros refers to is that dead past and indoctrinations that drag us down like an albatross. We harden to fear with false bravado and violent acts.
There is a direct correlation to the contemporary violence in our own culture, the desperation of inequality and injustice that escalates hopelessness and promotes shootings and destructive acts. There is a momentary sense of control and alleviation of pain in an instance of solid, misdirected action. As Didier, the town grocer, observes, "The beauty of the gun is that it can bring an end to this moment." In those moments, Nadya notes, "We are nothing to the world. We are all detached from our...