Saturday, October 10, 2009

Human Traces

Seldom have I put myself through books of long narrative literature, or didactic ones at least. Not until I grabbed the book by Sebastian Faulks, titled 'Human Traces' from my cousin's bookshelf of.. of philosophy, to some extent. The titles one would expect to find there ranges from the romantic journeys of Nicholas Sparks, popular scientific and historical thrillers of Dan Brown, a couple of religious, New Age looking titles and epic ones like Human Traces.

This book proved not to be a page turner, as I personally prefer to enjoy a good book slowly, savouring each bite and digesting each line completely before moving on to the next; unlike thrillers or fast-moving plots, I prefer to screen through the paragraph for interesting notes because we are always so eager to know the ending. It took some five years for the research and writing of this novel, so why would I rush through a book in five days?

Set in over fifty years from the Victorian era till the World War began, the novel started off with a french boy named Jacques living in a small town Brittany, ever so eager to become a scientist, anxious to dissect a frog, wondering what when wrong with his elder brother Olivier who went 'travelling in his own world' at such a tender age- in which he was also jealous that his brother had known their deceased mother who died shortly after Jacques's birth. The story then shifts to an English village, where Faulks wrote about an English boy Thomas, and his family and he being closest to his sister Sonia who was 2 years older than he is. Thomas being highly interested in literature, Shakespeare's work and the human psychology, and persuaded by his sister, he went on pursuing Medicine in the University in Cambridge. One day, by chance or by fate, Jacques and Thomas met in Deauville and had set their minds to be in partnership in the future of running a 'clinic for nervous disorders'.

So the story advances throughout their lives: the delightful and dolorous events, the travel adventures, the conflicts, the carnal desire, the war that killed many with 'no reason to die', their theory and postulates concerning the types or nervous disorders and mental diseases that had struck mankind; and ultimately, to figure out what makes us human. No wonder it took Faulks five years to complete this: so detailed, so intricate, yet beautifully placed together the idea of humanity, which is probably the essence that absorbs a reader into the story.

Indeed, a masterpiece of imagination.

And never again, I look at them as the social outcast. People dislike them for their peculiarity and for causing them discomfort, stirring up some kind of fear within one; they're different, they're crazy, they're mad. I met a Schizophrenic on the Subway today, I must say, I felt extremely sad for this soul; as his brain waves instruct him to hallucinate, he speaks to his imaginary friend in loud and brusque manner, eventually people around were at shock with his vagaries. I am not surprised to realised that three quarter of the car emptied within 5 minutes.

" ...for quite simple reasons connected to the limits of their ability to reason, human beings could live out their whole long life without ever knowing what sort of creatures they really were. Perhaps it did not matter; perhaps what was important was to find serenity in not knowing."


Novzix said...

summary beautifully illustrated in writing :) loved the last bit as well <3

Julia C said...

thanks <3