REVIEWS: The Black City

By Leonardo Alishan.  First Person POV, psychological realism or stream of consciousness, absolutely soaking wet with symbolism. 

It starts off immediately with changing place and space in the first sixteen words:  "I cut my lower lip shaving and I was by the gates of the Black City…"

We are then led by the narrator into a dreamlike world in which he comes face to face with his relatives, his wife, and eventually himself at different stages of his life, but all coming from a city that he calls by turn strange and "mine so intimately" that we are tipped off to follow details closely, that each statement made is likely meaningful and vital to the understanding of this tale.

While I do not immediately have an opinion on the symbols themselves, they are fairly obvious in their presence: a mosque opposite a cathedral on each end of the street, and in this statement: "if I was alive; and I was alive though still connected with an umbilical cord to the wet womb of a dead god."

Aside from the religious questioning, there is the subject of happiness, childhood innocence and mature understanding of life.  One this is clear, he’s been a prick to his wife: "every day that she spends with you is spent in sorrow for the day and in despair for tomorrow; thus, I, her yesterday, grow happier and more radiant in her memory."  This leads to one of the great statements made: "How wrong you are, on the other side, to think the past cannot be changed."  The past, only available in memory, indeed changes with influence and perception.

Didn’t quite get the meaning behind the grandmother being queen of the city after the narrator was so sure he had built every part of it and was therefore its King, although the sacrificing of her on a regular basis may reveal a gender based hierarchy that would provide insight into the relationship between him and his wife.  From an innocent and happy little boy (likely spoiled) to the overbearing ways of men of his culture perhaps is seen in the final scene of this daydream.  We are then returned to the man cutting his chin with the razor as he shaves.  And of course, wonder if he’s found some meaning in the dream that may better his life even at this late stage.

Nicely done, a story with a moral of sorts, though even as the gates of his past slam shut behind him, it seems in conflict with the importance of memory changing the past.

This entry was posted in REVIEWS. Bookmark the permalink.