Here is a short review of Craig Podmore's new novella The Symmetries of Pain
This novella is raw. Raw like the products of a war. It is about the process of becoming less than human, in the sense of inhumane. The distortion of sexuality and emotion by being a soldier, a person paid by the state to kill and not to feel.
Though the fact that the protagonist is a soldier is not the crux. It could be anybody, any body that takes the state seriously or is seriously taken by the state.
This is perhaps not exactly the pornography of violence, though the subject is violent pornography. The penis a gun and the gun a pen is, Freud everywhere but no cigars in sight. Sometimes a gun is just a gun, but not here, nor in modern warfare. The protagonist's acquaintance Anton is a connoisseur of cruelty who speaks of the symmetries of pain. He is defeated however as the novella build to a crescendo where “true love” seemingly triumphs as Anton is killed by Cinnamon, the protagonist's woman.
Though the book seems to hold out “hope” in the idea that humans can know a genuine love, it is most effective and speaks most naturally up to that point, where it lists the high points of our depravities. Eating, fucking and killing all being basically the same thing, the same function.
“There are words scribed onto the walls in both shit and blood:‘This profane is my wisdom, this vice is my suffering but it is this suffering that I enjoy fucking…’”
Podmore convincingly depicts life as a form of sexual cannibalism. And because the depiction is convincing the question of right or wrong becomes suspect. Does it even make sense to say: “We are all evil.”?Whether or not liberation through love is just wishful thinking, this novella is immensely enjoyable. Do get it. It is here.