Remainder by Tom McCarthy

About a year ago I borrowed ( Saskatoon public library)  an Audio tape  Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays (Penguin Press, 12 November 2009), a collection of essays on writing and reviews by Zadie Smith (Novelist, essayist, Professor of Creative Writing). I listened to her review of the Remainder by Tom McCarthy and the following day requested the book from the library… it was out and …In the meanwhile i was intrigued by something that Zadie had mentioned in her review of the book… that Tom had incorporated some themes from Heidegger’s  Being and Time. By the time the library sent me the hold pick up notice, I had tried to brush up on the key concepts by Heidegger without any clearer idea of what the philosopher was saying, except that in the back of my mind somewhere it resonated with Bhagvad Gita.

Remainder

Ok back to Tom McCarthy’s first novel Remainder.. The narrator in the novel suffers,..suffers from a memory loss after an accident and receives a settlement of 8.5 million. ( we don have the details of this accident except that it involved something falling from the sky…something technological: hints.. of airplane etc.) He hires a facilitator to help him reenact and stage scenes from his imagination or distorted or rekindled memory snaps. The scenes are developed with precision using smells of bacon Burning, music played in the yard by a neighbour Elderly woman crossing paths with the narrator and looking thus. He spends his newfound wealth on purchasing buildings and equipment and hiring actors to play the scenes. These reenactments are interspersed with other scenes and events with which the narrator becomes increasingly detached.

So where does Heiddeger come in? Well in an altered state of perception, weather high meditation or Brain injury, time does not have categories of past, present or future..it just is. But Heidegger also said that authenticity was the only true way of “being” (being in time). No! it is not about Now, which never is or always is..it is about being in the past, present and future. Your/our essence can only be authentic, if you carry all your time within you.

I found the  novel addictive and  read closely to figure out the puzzle, but the goalpost kept moving and I found  myself on yet another more complex ride. Without going into anymore details, so as not to give the plot away I would definitely recommend the book.

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