Conflict Resolution– Or Not

Et voilà! In between meetings and panels yesterday, I reached the end of Péplum, which was 99% dialogue.* In addition to an interesting, but otherwise-unexplored, suggestion therein that ghosts, in their previous lives, were people too absent-minded to have realized they’d just died, there were a few pages there where I thought the inconceivable was about to happen: namely, that our protagonist and her kidnapper from the future, Celsius, were about to cross the boundary between enmity and understanding. During Celsius’ gradual revelation about why he’s done what he’s done (and I can’t tell you what that is, since I don’t enjoy spoiling plots for people), we get some glimpses of possible justification, and of our heroine’s hatred of him beginning to crack a bit.

All of a sudden, I was thinking about whether the situation Nothomb presents us might be a reexamination of sorts of Sartre’s No Exit, with a hint of Fight Club thrown in for good measure. In other words, an eternity spent with an odious person might originally be hell: but on the other side of no-holds-barred argument, and a bit of physical abuse here and there, you might just emerge on the other side of ill-will.

I’m not sure that happened, in the end; at best, the kidnapped writer might, at some point in her own future, look back and feel some grudging affection for that prig, Celsius. And that lack of hugs and happy ends might be for the best– because in addition to being more realistic, really, to what horrible lengths might the assertion that knock-down drag-outs are revelatory and therapeutic take us? (Sure, this method might constitute a much-needed exercise in air-clearing, at the conference I’m currently at– but it would take so long to theorize about it first that by the time anyone got around to throwing punches, even the tension would have left the room out of sheer boredom. And with that parenthetical observation, I’ll close and move on to the next round.)


* (The dialogue aspect reminds me: I’m pretty keen to get my hands on some of Svetlana Alexievich’s stuff.)


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