Friday, May 11, 2007

ruth rendell


I love this short novel. I found it in London last year. Incredibly, when I was boarding the plane the 'liquid frenzy' unleashed and I wasn't even allowed to take this tiny book in the plane... Anyway, I think this is an exemplary sample of a suspense-psychological-mystery nouvelle. Polly, its main character, is an enigmatic woman that doesn't seem to know what her actions will unleash! Her main characteristic is her 'cleptomaniac' tendency, and the way she deals with everyday conflicts is always based on her capacity to steal; so her revenges, in the novel, are transformed into her thefts. I think that through this story we are able to see what's going on in our society in terms of facades and impersonations in the higher classes, and Polly's apparent craziness is a metaphor for our day-to-day incoherences and absurdisms, because even though Polly follows the patterns of what society means by 'normal' (having a job, a fiancee, a stable and economical situation), she still cannot manage to conceal her inner and most instinctive self, that is, the one corresponding to an almost amazonic woman: castrating, confronting, savage. Through her acts we can see the vulnerability of our social order, of our actual set of rules and expectations. So even when Polly participates in the bourgeous spectacle, she is not able to be loyal to it.
The story begins, "The first time she stole something Polly was eight years old."
Other quotations:
"Stealing things from people who had upset her was something Polly did quite a lot".
"There was her Aunt Pauline; a girl at school; a boyfriend who left her. And there was the man on the plane..."
"Humiliated and scared, by a total stranger, Polly does what she always does. She steals something. But she never could have imagined that her desire for revenge would have such terrifying results".

8 comments:

Antonia said...

i never have read something from Rendell, maybe I should. Entirely agree with this observation about the facades and that while maintaing a sort of superficial stable identity everythign else that truly describes the character of a person finds its way through the backdoor.
The Patricia Highsmith biography came, it is great to read and this guy used an incredible amount of sources, wonderful.

nico said...

Hi Antonia, isn't it great? Yes, Ruth Rendell is amazing, a real phenomenon in the UK. A close friend really liked REndell and then I read her. This short novel is a great introduction to her. Also, did you know that Chabrol's 'Ceremonie' and Almodovar's 'Live Flesh' are based on Rendell's novels? About Highsmith, how cool, I devoured everything she wrote some years ago. Did you see that extravagant photograph with the fake glasses?

Antonia said...

i shall certainly go and read something of her - and yes, you are right, in the highsmith book is this photo with the weird glasses. every author should wear such glasses, no?

nico said...

Wow Antonia, this is almost like magic. I never would have thought that we could actually be admiring the same picture! Thanks! You know that your blog was a big inspiration for my overcoming my passivity in terms of computers!

Anonymous said...

Now I'm inspired to read this book, too. Nico, do you still have it and may I borrow it? KK

Nico said...

Yes, I'll lend it to you. You are going to devour it, it's very brief and addictive. Let's talk! N

k k kueen said...

Nico, I read this book in one sitting (minus the 1st chapter which I read late last night) and now I have indigestion. Well, almost. Watching Polly self-destruct was painful. Not only that, Rendell was so successful at creating tension and a door into Ruth's mind that I felt guilty by association and kept wondering what I could do to intervene before the inevitable conclusion unfolded. Your analogy is interesting. Do you think this was Rendell's intention??

nico said...

you're right, it seems that we're left totally castrated since we know danger is approaching, we know that polly could do something else to correct some events, but she is just incapable of doing this reversal. i like that part in which her fiance tells her the relationship is over and she tries to explain and she starts saying that when she was little her aunt had hit her and then a boyfriend... i love the way rendel was able to make polly's mind talk so fluently. and yes, i think the metaphor of consumerism is there, evidently!!