Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The way of Rene’s Flesh

Last night, though barely able to keep the eyelids from drooping (I seem to have that problem lately), I finished Rene’s Flesh by Virgilio Piñera. It’s a quick read—it took all of a few days to get through—but in the short time devoted to its pages I found myself disturbed, always unsure of what I was reading and at the edge of my proverbial seat. I fear my mind may never be the same. This is what happened when I read Genet, though I cannot remember why. (Something, like in Piñera, to do with homoerotic torture.) This is what happened when I read Wind-up Bird Chronicles and met Boris the man-skinner, who has haunted me all these years. This is not to say that Piñera’s book contains anything as graphic as Murakami’s, but there are elements of unease and oddity in Rene’s Flesh that makes everything else going on in my life right now seem secondary. (Almost.)

The story is not worth recounting here, but if you are interested here’s a link to Amazon’s sale page full of plot descriptions and reader reviews:


What I will say is that the book, while never graphic in terms of strong violence or sexuality, is the most tense story of (homo)eroticism and torture I can recall. Perhaps the before mentioned Genet is more extreme in this regard, but while his books can digress and dissolve beautifully, Piñera’s stays on track and is always economical, even in its most grandiose absurdities.

I can’t seem to get my hands on much else by Piñera, though I have not looked high and low. I’m content with this one novel for now. I’m not sure I can handle another at the moment.