(Isaac Rosa, The Dark Room. Magor, Skopje, 2015)
May misfortune dress
As it befits the light
Translated from Macedonian: Milan Damjanovski
After reading the novel The Dark Room by Isaac Rosa, the verse composed by the Croatian poet Daniel Dragojevich seem to best serve as a subtle introduction to the obliqueness of Rosa’s literary style. Thus, I would like to commence the story from this very point, his style of writing and the manner in which Rosa leads us into the absolute darkness of the room and its significance. I would like to start by pointing out the fact that in the first fifty pages of the novel none of the characters appear, only the narrating “we” is heard addressing a no particular “you”. You – opposite us, you– one of us.You – just another among the many unrecognisable faces in the darkness. The narrating “we” is in rush at all to gives us any answers, quite the contrary. The novel opens up with the following invitation: „Don’t stand there. Come in already, we are all gathered here. Behind the curtain, the door is open, all you need to do is to push it, while you feel the weight of the fabric on your back as it falls down leaving behind the semi-darkness of the hallway. The door closes by itself, and when you make a few steps you can feel the darkness hardening on your face, heavy set, yet no, this is just the second curtain hanging from a semicircular bar so as not to obstruct the passage through the door (…) It’s a passageway, placed there to open the way for you: you can go through it only sideways, like entering a temple. When you are inside, you can only orient yourself with the help of the closest wall: you lean with your hand on the feathery surface. Consequently, you can continue moving along the edges of the room, constantly hanging to the wall; or you can make a few steps toward the center of the room.”
This invitation, at the very beginning of the novel, is in fact addressed to the reader. What is the first thing happening at the onset of the novel is a rite of initiation of the reader into the world of darkness. The experience of reading the first pages of the novel is like falling through thick dough. Yet, it’s an interesting and intriguing thick dough in which the reader experiences the torment of inner struggle – whether to surrender to the voice which has put a blindfold over his or her eyes and asks to be unreservedly followed without even knowing where, or whether during the first initiation chapter (out of the eight which comprise the structure of the novel) to find a way out into the light.
Those that decide to stay have to focus in the uterine darkness of perception and experiencing. The readers of the novel, just like the characters, are faced with the narrated events as if watching them on the mental screen of their inner universe. They have agreed to participate in the communication (the evoked memory of the role of the dark room in the 15 years of the life of the characters) through the medium of mental projection of the senses of touch, smell and hearing. In the absence of the power of sight, the skin of the other is primarily and solely the skin of the other: without a face or any other form of identity. The absolute darkness of the locked and padded basement room opens up a completely different door of perception and sets up a more intimate, animalistic, yet contemplative level of both narration and its perceptions. This allows the materialization of all the things which opens up before the mind’s eye when we close our eyes.