Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book Review: Dogma by Lars Iyer


Dogma, unlike the author’s previous novel, Spurious, has received mixed reviews. The latter was welcomed as a masterpiece, but when it came to the former the critics were not that enthusiastic. Now that I have read the novel I can say that I really wonder why? Why did they not like it as much as Spurious? For me this a great novel, as it combines humor, irony, philosophical thought, amazing discussions-monologues and a peripatetic mood.
     Even though Dogma is the second novel in a not so closely knit trilogy, which will come to its end next year with the Exodus, one can easily read it as a standalone volume.
     The main protagonists in this story are two friends: W, who’s a Catholic Jew atheist and Lars, who’s more or less, or rather less than more, Hindu. The first thinks too much and philosophizes a lot about the end of days, while at the same time he’s preparing two projects on capitalism and religion (“Capitalism is the evil twin of true religion,” he claims), while the second just lives, or maybe I should say survives, in the shadow of his friend. I think that this is one of the oddest couple of friends that I’ve ever encountered in world literature. They are so different from each other that the only thing that seems to keep them close together is the simple fact that no one else could ever put up with them. W on the one hand, never stops thinking and talking, every now and then he points his poisonous words towards his friend, who’s a non-thinker, he often enough throws one-liners in their conversations while trying to make a point, he gets angry and revolts constantly, at least in his head, and he makes new decisions all the time; decisions which sometimes he sticks to, but most times he doesn’t; to put it simply he’s not only a man of words, but also one of action. As for Lars, who’s the narrator, he simply seems to be nothing more than a receptacle. He just listens to his friend, he puts up with his whims, he follows him in his varied adventures, he learns from him, and every now and then, when he absolutely has to, he opens his mouth to say a few words to appease the spirits and bring serenity to W’s soul. Most of the times all he has to do to achieve that is quote the Vedas or tell him stories from the Hindu mythology.
     Their dialogues, or rather W’s monologues, are simply a joy to behold. And, as one would expect, quotation time it is: “You should never learn from your mistakes”; “We must read if we want to live”; “We’re not capable of god”; “Philosophy’s like an unrequited love affair”; “Always claim the ideas of others as your own”; “The Dogma must always be drunk”; “Only the hopeless can truly understand the everyday.”
     W looks and sounds like a prophet of the end. He expects catastrophe to hit the earth any time now; and he feels that more strongly than ever in America, where the ignorant natives apart from having no Plymouth Gin for sale, they have also “made a Disneyland of Armageddon.”
     “It’s time to die,” he says at the end, “but death does not come.” Thankfully, I should add; because if it did then we’d miss the opportunity to enjoy the third part of his unique mental and physical escapades.
     Highly recommended to everyone out there who loves good literary fiction.

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