Sunday, 26 July 2015

The Islands

For the more geophysically inclined ....

(although, these islands could be anywhere)

The Chapters

Preparing the manuscript is a process of whittling, whittling down the content to less than a side of A4.  Possibly read, possibly not.  This is more fruit on the tree:

Española functions as a prologue to introduce the reader into a world that is outside his own but one that is also in a definitive place within the universe.  It ruminates on early memories and the purpose of mankind.

Marchena is an introduction to the two main protagonists:  Stephen Rei and Philomena Cordova.  We begin to learn about their attitudes and it seems they are both off to meet someone.  The likely perception in the reader’s mind is that they are off to see each other.

Seymour Norte is written in an unusual form of the third person omniscient where the narrator seems to be addressing another character rather than the reader. It is unclear who the narrator is, although his description is somewhat sinister and uses archaic expressions.  It follows Philomena’s journey from her home to Sevenoaks town centre where she will meet another major character, her friend Parveen Pattni.  Stephen meanwhile has discovered a dead person on a train.

Santa Cruz is a conversation piece between Philomena and another person.  It goes on for a number of months and makes references to Debra King, Philomena’s step-sister, visiting Philomena and the meeting between Parveen and Philomena.

Daphne introduces Debra’s unhappy state of affairs and satirizes science.  As the chapter progresses, we realise we are reading that Parveen (sitting in a pizza restaurant) is, in turn, reading the “carefully folded … A4 manuscripts” which Philomena had passed to her earlier, the first draft of ‘Archipelago’.

Santiago comes from Mr Dibs’ point of view.  Mr Dibs is a dog and talks of his love for Debra, his mistress, and the fact that she is pregnant.

Pinzón is a continuation of Philomena’s tale. She leaves Parveen and enters Tan and Float, a beauty parlour, where, during a tanning session, the reader is able to hear her thoughts presented in interior monologue.

Floreana is stylistically the same to ‘Santa Cruz’ and so a continuation of it.  The reader learns a little bit more of Philomena’s sexuality and joie de vivre in this conversation.  She seems to be conversing with a ‘Chrissy’, as per the Christmas card which is labelled “Happy Chrissymas”

Bartolomé begins with a pastiche of Hesiod’s ‘Theogony’ in a mock-heroic style.  It is set as a book within a book.  That book being ‘An Anarchic Arcane Arcadia of Gods and of Men’.  Stephen Rei is reading this - rather like Parveen is reading another one of Philomena’s books - half distracted however, with other thoughts regarding food and life in general.

Caldwell is an interior monologue where Stephen Rei continues reflections he had begun in the previous chapter.  The reader realises he is conscious of his hedonist tendencies - and reads of his unease in his considerations of women (though he mentions his wife with great affection). He relates unpleasant tales of how people treat others.

Guy Fawkes begins with, “two battered hatted elderly gentlemen” sitting in a pub playing a game of cards whilst they are discussing politics and recent news, mainly the conclusion of the 1988 ‘Death On The Rocks’ trial.  Hubert Springs is an author and a Labour Party supporter with an unhealthy interest in prurient imagery. Caleb Williams follows the doctrine of anarchy.

Gardener is a third conversation chapter.  The relationship of Philomena and, as the reader is finally told, Christine, is more developed making references to love and nature.

Darwin completes the conversation between Mr Springs and Mr Williams.  From their vantage point in the pub they see a, “bronzed, tottering form”, who later transpires to be Philomena.

Tortuga is an unpleasant description of Debra’s unpleasant husband, Terry King.  The reader learns of his gross fetish attitudes and disdain for mankind.  Terry purchases a car from a car dealer, Chris Sale.

San Cristóbal is the fourth and last conversation piece - sexual in nature. However, at its conclusion, the reader discovers that Philomena had not actually been conversing with Christine.

South Plaza ends with Philomena being assaulted in Knole Park, Sevenoaks – having begun with her thoughts about art, music, language, botany and memory – plus reflections regarding changing and outgrowing childhood.

Corona Del Diablo commences with a description of Philomena’s sexual assault in Middle English and ends with the tale returning back to Parveen’s reading of this and her resulting consternation.  It appears everything Parveen (and the reader) had read from ‘Daphne’ to this point is contained with Philomena’s book ‘Archipelago’.

Rábida has Mr Springs and William experiencing an epiphany as Parveen offers a prayer for her friend regarding events that occurred in the previous chapter.  As this section concludes Mr Williams passes away in his residential care home.

Genovesa contains the second chapter of Philomena’s book ‘An Anarchic Arcane Arcadia of Gods and of Men’. Set in a dystopian future, where women have inherited the earth yet the presence of control, order and hegemony is still manifest.  The chapter is written in such a way that Stephen Rei, who is reading this book, is sexually aroused.

Wolf is in journal form, describing the experiences of someone who has sought a more interesting and exciting life within a Sevenoaks squat.

Isabela is written as a three act play, set in the squat that the character in ‘Wolf’ has moved in to.  The last act, a party, features actors within the play that are mentioned throughout the book as well as the squatters themselves, some of whom are members of an industrial music band ‘The Reverse Products Organisation’.

Mosquera contains the third chapter of Philomena’s first book - the one Stephen Rei is reading - as well as discussions between Parveen, her brother Deepak, Stephen and his wife.  Deepak realises his sister is a lesbian as they attend the party mentioned in ‘Isabela’.  Stephen and his wife go to bed and blissful comfort.

Enderby begins with a list of various international treaties.  Presented in this way the reader is unequivocally informed of that which has legislative authority.  It proceeds, two different tales are told:  one in the first person of a whaler and the other of Maria Swann (mentioned earlier in ‘Isabela’).  Maria is deeply in love with her boyfriend Michael - and counterpoised to this, the whaler simply loves his job.  Both appear ignorant as to why they have such sentiment, but that is seen not to matter.

Champion is primarily concerned with Chris Sale, who the reader had met back in ‘Tortuga’. He had reappeared again as a friend of the squatters, a lyricist and a drummer for ‘The Reverse Products Organisation’ in ‘Isabela’.  The reader understands that Chris’s finances and love life are in a parlous state.  Like ‘Enderby’, this chapter is set in the ‘morning after the night before’ describing Parveen worrying about what she has said to others, especially her brother at the squat party.  During this chapter Debra receives a coded text message from Philomena which she is unable to decipher due to Philomena being, “isolated in her language.” Additionally, Debra and her dog appear bleak and despondent as it seems Debra has lost the baby she was carrying - on Christmas Day.  This chapter, which moves around in time considerably, ends with Philomena’s libation.

Santa Fé is the continuation of Parveen’s Sunday morning journey to a Sevenoaks beauty spot, Bradbourne Lakes. She begins sketching the idyll then meets an American lady who, it later transpires, is also a lesbian.  They are both immediately attracted to each other.  Parveen experiences her first romantic kiss from someone of her own sexuality and considers the nature of beauty and love.

Cowley seems to have moved on somewhat from the events at the start of the book.  It marks the return of Philomena who meets Stephen again in Sevenoaks.  The reader is conscious that they have met previously as they recognise each other and walk through Sevenoaks town centre, ending their journey in a pub, ‘The Dorset Arms’.

Eden begins with Philomena’s bitter attack on Stephen who is a paradigm for men’s portrayal and hegemony of women - and ends with Debra sitting in her laboratory considering ‘her lot’.  A ‘twist’ involves the reader being informed that Stephen is reading Philomena’s new book, ‘Archipelago’ - a book in which he features.  He is considerably crestfallen as he reads his own portraiture.

Baltra depicts Parveen and Philomena meeting again.  Parveen is initially angry with Philomena but their natural friendship returns before long and Philomena invites Parveen to go with her on holiday to Corfu.

North Plaza is set in a hospital.  Debra has been beaten up, this time badly, by her husband. Philomena swears revenge and hatches a plan.  Debra describes the death of Mr Dibs who had tried to protect her from Terry.

Pinta is where the sinister narrator re-appears – in Corfu - the omniscient author who has power of life and death over his characters.  He has chosen death for Philomena as one layer of the book finishes, but not before the reader is told of Philomena’s revenge plan and thereby the dénouement of the ‘Philomena Myth’.  Terry King will become the murdered body found by Stephen in ‘Seymour North’.

Beagle stylistically echoes the prologue, ‘Espanola’, inviting the reader to consider his place in the universe.

Sin Nombre is the epilogue returning the reader to the surface reality of all that they may be part of.

The Simple Synopsis

As with a lot of things in life you are sometimes advised to be laconic.  The same was true with the blurb on the back.  Here is the expanded version...

Despite one of the characters questioning the necessity of following a clear linear narrative, Archipelago does have one.  Based in part on the ‘Philomena Myth’, the story is merely a vehicle to convey underlying themes - with varying styles for each chapter, mimetically corresponding to different environmental factors of the islands in the Galápagos Archipelago.  This abstraction echoes the variegated nature of each of us in our communities, towns and islands.

The novel is book-ended by prologue and epilogue, functioning to draw the reader into an apparently prosaic world of one ordinary day in the lives of four people.  These are as follows: Stephen Rei, junior sub-editor of an international publishing house; Philomena Cordova, émigré from the Galápagos Islands; Suzel King, micro-biologist and Philomena’s step-sister; and Parveen Pattni, who works in her father’s newsagents.

It begins one October 1998 Saturday morning, with suggestion that Stephen and Philomena are aiming to meet on this day, but this is deception.  In reality Philomena begins a lengthy ‘Joycean’ odyssey through the town, during which she meets Parveen, ruminates on her past, experiences the maelstrom of mercantile life, writes a short poem, and contemplates the nature of language.  The day ends wickedly, with Terry King (Suzel’s husband) raping her.

Stephen discovers a body on a train and Philomena is complicit in this (as revealed in the novel’s dénouement) for the body is Terry.

To Begin ...

Archipelago is now almost finished.  So I am going to put up some additional information here for readers to puzzle over even more.  Well, that is the intention anyway.  Filling in the blanks, answering the questions, expanding the riddles, more hectoring pontifications.