The Walled Society
A Novel That Foresaw Our Present World
The City of the Moon(La ciudad de la Luna) by Uruguayan American writer Jorge Majfud, published in 2009, is a metaphor of the world a decade after its publication, a world obsessed with walls, with nationalisms, with tribal or racial divisions, with identity politics, with the pride of different sects in a hyper-fragmented society that abandons the values of Illustration and submerges into a new Middle Age.
The novel takes place in Calataid, a walled city to the south of Argelia between 1955 and 1992. This city, surrounded by the Sahara desert, probably founded by a lost body of troops from the Spanish Army after the Iberian Reconquista, possesses the particularity of being inhabited almost exclusively by white Europeans, most of them Christians, secluded in a quiet and unknown corner after the independence of Argel in 1962. In order to survive, Calataid seeks to cut the last physical and cultural ties with the outside world, especially with the almost empty train that, almost like a ghost, reaches her once a month. One of its protagonists and narrators is the monster-son of an Argentinian physician who, from his own loneliness, sees the reality of a society that considers itself the perfect moral reserve of the corrupt world. Under the presumption of a free and democratic society, religious moralism and social discourse oppress true diversity that exists in the city. Despite the evident traces of decadence, urbanistic, economic ethical, Calataid resists all change until it succumbs to a tide of sand that overcomes its thick walls. Calataid can be understood as a metaphor of contemporary societies that, as much in the East as in the West, are capable of imploding by the strength or their own pride, until crushing their individuals before sinking down into collective decadence. It is a metaphor of the hate and sectarian violence that manipulates us in the name of our own good and it is also a metaphor of the final emptiness of all human power.
Calataid ends up sinking into the sands of the Sahara, in an almost inadvertent way by its inhabitants that insist on denying the danger that threatens its thick walls.
Part of the narration experiments with the perspectives of cubism, in such a way that in a single sentence, different narrators can join together (multiple subjects and multiple verbal times) with the intention of accenting the main character of the city-society.
IF CALATAID WAS CHARACTERIZED BY ANYTHING, it was by its nightly groans, by those ghostly echoes that bounced off the dark alleys of San Patricio, between the thick walls of Compassion and Gitanera since the time of the colony, from the times of its painful founding. Those groans that were never defined by pain or by pleasure, between ecstasy and the martyrdom of insanity, between holiness and sin. The groans of Calataid that were preceded by the last bell tolls of the center and, more recently, by the absurd thundering of the Basiliscus trumpet -blasts without order or harmony, like a call to the demon at the entrance to the Holy City of Calataid.
HIS MOTHER HAD BEEN PARTLY RIGHT. Playing jazz or that damned tango at the train station, in a country that had become intolerant to everything Western, was it not a way of dangerously exposing a town of Europeans, refugees of other definitely overcome human miseries? A town that had been the advancement of the spiritual adventure of Europe -according to Doctor Uriburu himself-, long before the insatiable colons arrived, and that at that time had become the lagging disbandment, huddled since 1962 in a corner of the infinite Sahara, trying not to move or make noise so as to not be seen, so that one would not hear of them in children’s stories, always expectant of saving the world from the last tremor, from chaos, from the tragic but necessary end.
Everyone knew that one day word would go out that, hidden in the demon-possessed desert of Barbaria, a musician was playing jazz and, quicker than a rooster’s crow, the fanatics of the great moorish sect would come for him and would find an entire town of unfaithful (according to their erroneous conception of God), with their churches full of images and their bodegas full of wine, with their proud Freedom.
“Blurred Freedom” /the Basiliscus father had written, doctor Uriburu, seven years prior, in a notebook that disappeared along with some other books one day after his death-, freedom that was never welcomed in Calataid, but is now rescued as an old piece of junk from an abandoned trunk in a basement, discovered by chance and with desperation by a scared member of the family that ran off to take refuge in the darkness of a house on the brink of caving in, on the brink of being crushed by the infernal vomit of the Vesuvius.
A town that would not have time to explain, according to others, that they had nothing to do with the oppressors of the colony, with the being and nothing of Paris nor with the socialists nor Budiaf nor Ali kafi nor with the Organisation Armée Secrète. And though it be miraculously granted the Western right to show them all that, they wouldn’t be able to hide their churches and plaster saints; nor their marble virgins with a beautifully insolent breast; the barefoot and unclothed Saint Theresa in her best momento of ecstasy, about to be run through several times by the spear of that beautiful angel, in one of the discrete corners of the Mother church; nor its pig breeding grounds on the outside that served as trash dumps; nor its noble reproductions of Fra Angelico on the walls of the Town Hall and the largely hated image of the half-naked David; nor its pagan books kept safe in the basements of the five blind towers, with its lookouts permanently walled in in 1962; nor its Bibles ignorant of Mohammed; nor its door knockers announcing the monstrous fetishism of each dweller; nor its gardens and squares full of labenders from France and poppies from China; nor its women without chador nor its men that occasionally participated in the calm of wine and rational conversation, of Aristotle and Saint Augustine, of cheese and meat during Ramadan. They would rip the stone knocker that precedes the West Gate off; they would break open the walls, like in 1847; they would burn the churches, tear down the five blind towers and dig up the sacred graves; they would hang the theater widow from her neck with two yards of Casablanca; they would behead the mayor and drag the Russian man from the Palestine shop through the streets. And was that not all, by any chance, the secret desire of a deformed and rancorous being like the Basilicus?
“The Walled Society”, narrated by Gregory Allen Siders. An English chapterfrom La ciudad de la Luna(video):
A chapter from the novel The City of the Moon by Jorge Majfud: http://www.thesquawkback.com/2011/09/…
Título: LA CIUDAD DE LA LUNA
Autores: Jorge Majfud
Fecha de publicación: 2009
Número de páginas: 286