- The Spiral of Words by Jorge Armenteros
Spuyten Duyvil Press
250 pages; Print, $16.00
The Spiral of Words is Jorge Armenteros's third book in a trilogy that explores probative spiritual and existential issues. I highly recommend reading all three books, although each can certainly stand alone.
In the traditions of myth and archetypal exploration, the character of the Striped Tunic returns once again as a seeker. Calixto, a writer, searches for words as a way to find meaning in a fearful, arbitrary, and uncertain existence. Calixto's approach to life leads him in confusing, circular paths as he spirals between illusion and truth. Armenteros examines the complexities of finding expression through language. His prose style is non-traditional but wholly accessible, questioning the constructs of language, how we perceive and navigate reality, and what it means to be human. The characters afford us minimal personal information. Doing so would detract from the universal imperatives Armenteros is conveying.
Calixto, sees himself as "a conflicted writer and a walker in a dangerous void." Armenteros references Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector whose works explored the concepts of mystery, illusion, and reality and existing intuitively in a void, an overriding theme of The Spiral of Words. The writer seeks answers searching for the right words. Herein lies the spiral. While a viable resource, words are not a definitive methodology for explaining our existence. We must remain open to mystery, not allowing fears and insecurities to obscure possibilities for truth that can only be accessed in acceptance of the void and accessed by intuition. Calixto has set himself apart in a world he finds contrary and defined by separation. We see this in his perceptions such [End Page 62] as "the sun was assailing the beach." Colors weep and copulate, and sunlight shining through a window is "biting a chunk of his leg." He is at odds with the language he seeks for expression. He begins a long walk to the ancient Iberian Peninsula and the vast void of the ocean. Armenteros weaves symbols throughout his work, such as the essential elements of air, water, earth and fire. Of course, the first book of this trilogy is entitled Air and the second is The Roar of the River. All three books integrate the elements as characters walk the earth seeking answers. Fire is a transformative force representing the conflagration of an inner shift.
The repetition of the number three, bread as a symbol of life, and the col-or red are highly prominent. The number three has a tradition representing spiritual authority, often associated with intuition as in the Trinity, whose three circles symbolize eternity and God. Calixto finds the number three to be "mysterious, metaphysical, and magical." And, of course, this book is the third in a trilogy. Calixto meets three women whose names begin with the letter L that signifies divine purpose. He meets Lulu in his hometown of Nice and wonders if he knows "her soul." She has three red stars tattooed on her ankle. Later he meets Lyubochka whose name means love in Russian. She has a tattoo of a salamander on her neck.
Salamanders regenerate lost limbs which correlates to a resiliency of spirit. They are also associated with fire, hinting at opportunities for transformation and enlightenment. She speaks of "the essential relativity of all perceptions." His meeting with Leda references a queen of Greek mythology who becomes a swan, a symbol of divine healing and renewal. Bread is shared often.
Lyubochka refers to it as "the essence of life." Red is the color of blood and life force of humanity. It is an imperative to forego our will to allow truth and mystery to flow through us and override the beast that seduces us with ego and illusions.
Calixto meets an old man named Theo whose name means Divine Gift. There are references to Calixto's earlier book, No Somos Pero Somos, which translates as we are not but we are. Theo tells him it is all lies. Calixto accepts this "but points out that he only...