Adjacentland — Rabindranath Maharaj
Wolsak & Wynn Publishers, 2018
Adjacentland is hard to read. For one, readers have to watch for subtle clues and reread sections, deciding what is real and what is imagined. The narrative is fractured and fantastical. The narrator believes his account to be true and yet it can’t be — three men merge into one, a woman becomes see-through, etc. I waited for everything to become clear right up to the last word and still feel like I have to reread it to fully understand. Rabindranath Maharaj wrote this novel after seeing his father suffer from Alzheimer’s, wondering “how somebody could be emptied by forgetfulness.” Our narrator periodically wakes up with no autobiographical memory and must search for clues regarding his identity and the reason for his imprisonment. Is the Compound a prison? An asylum? Something else? Though there are moments of clarity very little is explained. The other reason Adjacentland was hard to read is because of my own experience visiting my grandparents in their group home when they had Alzheimer’s. The hallucinations, random lucidity, frustration and identity loss were all painfully familiar. No one who speaks to the narrator makes any sense. When he tells them he doesn’t understand he’s ignored or admonished. Balzac, a recurring character, claims to be “an erudite man” but threatens to become a “brute” if the narrator doesn’t stop pretending to have no memory. His caretakers claim to want what’s best for him, yet they may be causing his memory lapses. The narrator tries to answer their questions and get some answers for himself without provoking violence or suspicion. This psychological thriller can be quite unsettling — you might not want to read it alone.
Originally written in March, 2019.