The breakdown of communication in The Ravickians

   We’ve been discussing in class the ways in which The Ravickians eludes our comprehension and plays with the structure of communication. By the middle of the book, the prose is almost poetry, and by the end, it’s a simple dialogue with no traditional indication of who is speaking. I think Gladman is purposely creating an elusive text to focus our attention on the ways we can’t understand her. This translating relationship, between reader and author, is even more complex than the relationships between the characters in the novel trying to understand one another. Even if we speak the same language as the book we’re reading, there is an inevitable translation from author-speak (constructed prose) to the book’s meaning in the reader’s mind; what we connect to and create as meaningful as we read.

   Despite the odd breakdown in form towards the end of the book, there are passages in the Ravickians that are simple and seem easy to understand; one example is Amini’s description of going out into a city to get somewhere and hoping you have an adventure before you even arrive at the planned destination (20).

   Other passages are completely confusing. For example, from a passage about being on a bus: “We are surrounded and we are alone. This state goes on and on until something breaks, until there is no more lonely left, until we are so full and extended with emptiness that there is no place to go with it. And then out of the dark, someone shows up and gets through” (18-19). What is the “something” and how does it “break”? How would someone “get though” the emptiness? And why would that wording be necessary here? Lots of questions for one small passage. It’s so elusive it’s almost poetry.

   Later phrases from the “dialogue” section are just as odd. Presumably someone interjects things like “My shoes conforming around my feet” (125) into a conversation otherwise about a performance earlier that evening. 

   In general, I think Gladman’s intentions here can be clarified through a quote from page 25. The narrator is discussing Ana Patova’s writings, and how they tend to erase meaning as sentences go on. This novel seems to be erasing our access to clear meaning as it nears its end. Gladman is using this method of writing, while acknowledging in the text that it’s “interesting for creative or theoretical work” but bad for “everyday communication” (25). Is this work no longer interested in actual communication by the end? It’s true that sometimes poetry is more interested in sounds than meaning. The final passages of this novel make me think of that concept. But why write something early in a novel that appears so complex, only to break down into sentences that sound interesting but potentially have no meaning? I’m pretty confused about why Gladman would make that choice.


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