The Resurrectionist


The first Bradley's novel I read was Wrack and I really loved his writing. When I came across The Resurrectionist I didn't know what it was about, and to tell the truth, I didn't really care. I still remembered how much I liked Wrack.

The novel opens with bodies being brought to the anatomy lecture and how they are cleaned and prepared for dissection. "In their sacs they ride as in their mother's womb, knee to chest, head pressed down, as if to die is merely to return to the flesh from which we were born, and this a second conception." Later I looked up the title. I wasn't exactly sure I understood what or who a resurrectionist is. According to the Wikipedia, a resurrectionist is a person who practises body snatching. Bodies are then sold for dissection or anatomy lessons in medical schools.

This novel is not what I expected. Bradley's prose is still there and I still like it but I found his almost poetic writing at times being at odds with the things he describes. There are dead bodies, corpses, we even learn how long these people were dead and how their bodies looked like. And what they do with the bodies once they are on dissection tables. I kept thinking about how it is done nowadays, how obsessed we are with hygiene, protection clothes, gloves, masks over doctors' faces. I have an acquaintance who passed out in an anatomy class. He said it was the smell that did it for him. It was exactly that, the physical aspect of dissection I kept thinking about. 

Bradley doesn't describe just the corpses and autopsies but people, their breaths, smells, dirty clothes, digging up corpses, contents of a chamber pot, remains of makeup on a woman's face, what drink does to a person, the oblivion of opium. Oppressive, close foggy streets full of people, prostitutes calling to men from windows. He writes about weather, foggy sooty London air. "In the days that follow the weather grows worse: first rain, then sleet, then a choking mist which settles on the streets and will not lift. Everywhere the air is thick with it, its fumes burning in the eyes and throat. Then as quickly as it came the mist is gone, the day as clean and clear as ice. No wind just stillness, the freezing ache that comes before the snow. Upon the air the scent of burning coal and woodsmoke."  And atmosphere: "Outside the day is still, cloud lying flat and low and featureless, diffusing the light, soft grey without register or source." Grey ... If anyone asked me to describe the atmosphere in a colour, it would be grey.

The second part of the book gets even darker. When the body snatching isn't enough, there's murder. Bradley describes how the people are killed in a couple of sentences, more powerful than a three-page-long text would have been. I find the story disturbing, it unsettles me and I keep asking myself why I am reading it. Why don't I just stop and delete the book from my Kindle. How am I supposed to feel, what does Bradley expect me to feel, if anything. I know it's not real, it's a book, a bunch of printed pages read from a screen and thus made even less material, but I can't help it not affecting me. Nevertheless I keep reading. I want to understand my feelings. Why am I so horryfied, when all I have to do is turn on the television or open a newspaper and in a real world see practically the same things?

Then, there's a last part of the book: sun, greenery, warmth, dust and birds, a lot of birds, a lot of different birds. It brings something akin to redemption. If it weren't for this part, the book would have left me with a feeling similar to the taste of bile in my mouth. Things slowly start to fall into place, to form a big picture. All of us have a past and it catches with us eventually. What is done cannot be undone. "And yet the past is ever there. In the land and in ourselves. There are things that came to us without words, movements in ourselves. As real as thought, or memory. But without words they cannot be, without names they cannot give life."


* Words in italics are direct quotes from The Resurrectionist by James Bradley.


*

Prvi Bradleyev roman, ki sem ga prebrala, je bil Wrack (Razbitina?). Bolj kot kar koli drugega mi je bil všeč njegov stil pisanja, kako uporablja besede, kaj z njimi počne. Potem sem našla to knjigo. Nisem poznala njene vsebine pa tudi zanimala me ni. 

Zgodba se začne s trupli, ki jih pripeljejo k anatomistu, kaj naredijo z njimi, kako jih očistijo in pripravijo za obdukcijo. "V vrečah pridejo kot v maternici, s koleni potisnjenimi k prsim in sklonjeno glavo, kot da bi smrt pomenila vrnitev v položaj, iz katerega smo se rodili in da je to drugo spočetje." Kasneje sem sem se pozanimala kaj naslov sploh pomeni, The Resurrectionist. Zalotila sem se namreč, da nisem bila povsem prepričana, da mi je pomen besede jasen. Izkazalo se je, da gre za osebo, ki izkopava trupla in jih prodaja anatomistom, pri katerih se učijo bodoči zdravniki.

Moram priznati, da me je zgodba presenetila, nisem pričakovala nečesa takega. Njegova čudovita proza je še vedno tam, na trenutke sem besedilo brala kot da bi brala poezijo. Vendar ... Tu so trupla, o katerih izvemo marsikaj: kdaj so ljudje umrli, kako so umrli, kakšna so njihova trupla. V nadaljevanju Bradley opiše kaj se zgodi z njimi potem, ko jih položijo na obdukcijsko mizo. Velikokrat sem pomislila kako se to dogaja v današnjem času, ko smo obsedeni s higieno, zaščitnimi oblačili, rokavicami in maskami preko obrazov zdravnikov. Nekoč mi je znanec pripovedoval kako je pri uri anatomije omedlel. Bolj kot prizor, ga je dotolkel vonj. In to je točno to, o čemer sem med branjem razmišljala: o fizičnem, telesnem aspektu raztelešenja.

Bradley ne opisuje samo trupel in obdukcij, ampak tudi ljudi, njihov zadah, umazana oblačila, izkopavanje trupel, vsebino nočne posode, ostanke ličil na obrazu ženske, kaj pijača naredi iz človeka, pozabo, ki jo ponuja opij. Opisuje gnečo na zadušljivih in klavstrofobičnih londonskih ulicah, prostitutke, ki kriče skozi okna vabijo moške. Piše o vremenu, o s sajami in meglo nasičenem zraku. "V dneh, ki sledijo, se vreme poslabša: najprej dež, potem sodra, potem zadušljiva megla, ki sede na ulice in se noče dvigniti. Zrak je nasičen z njo, njene izparine žgejo oči in grlo. Potem megla izgine tako hitro kot je prišla, dan postane čist in jasen kot led. Nobenega vetra ni, samo negibnost, mrzla bolečina, ki pride pred snegom. V zraku je vonj po premogu in dimu." Atmosfera je siva, skoraj dvodimenzionalna, podobna môri. "Dan je negiben, oblak leži plosko, nizko in brezizrazno razprši svetlobo, ki je mehko siva, nedoločljiva." Siva ... če bi morala vzdušje v knjigi opisati z eno besedo, ki naj bo barva, bi bila to ravno siva.

Ko pridem čez polovico, postane zgodba še temačnejša. Izkopavanje trupel več ni dovolj, namesto tega se protagonisti zatečejo k umoru. Kako človeka ubijejo, je opisano v treh stavkih, ki so močnejši in grozljivejši, kot če bi bil opis dolg tri strani. Zgodba me po svoje pretrese, nekaj psihopatskega je v njej. Začenjam se spraševati zakaj jo sploh še berem, zakaj knjige enostavno ne izbrišem z bralnika in se pretvarjam, da je nikoli ni niti bilo. Kljub temu še kar berem. Rada bi razumela čustva, ki jih zgodba vzbuja v meni. Saj vem, da to ni resnično, vem, da imam pred seboj samo knjigo, kup natisnjenih strani, ki so skozi ekran e-bralnika še manj materialne. Zakaj sem potem tako zgrožena, ko pa vsakokrat, ko prižgem televizijo ali odprem časopis v resničnem svetu vidim iste stvari?

Potem pridem do zadnjega dela knjige: sonce, zelenje, toplota, prah in ptice. Ogromno različnih ptic. Občutim nekaj, podobnega odrešitvi. Če tega dela ne bi bilo, bi mi zgodba pustila kot žolč grenak občutek v ustih. Stvari se počasi sestavijo v širšo sliko. Vsi imamo preteklost, ki nas nekoč dohiti. Kar je storjeno, ne more več biti zanikano. "Kljub vsemu je preteklost vedno tu. V pokrajini in v nas. So stvari, ki so k nam prišle brez besed, so kot gibanje v nas. Enako resnične so kot misli ali spomini. Vendar brez besed ne morejo obstajati, brez imen nimajo življenja." 


* Ležeče izpisane besede so prepisane iz knjige. Prevedla sem jih sama.


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