Kafka goes to Manning Park
November 03rd, 2014
Ernest Hekkanen will be launching his novella, I’m Not You, at the Oxygen Art Centre in Nelson, B.C. on November 14th, accompanied by readings from Tom Wayman and Sandra Huber.
Vincent van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime–to his long-suffering brother who was the only person who consistently loved him and supported his work. After his death, the artwork of van Gogh has generated billions of dollars for commercial enterprises around the world, such as the ever-popular van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, and the collective value of his separate paintings made over a ten-year period is beyond calculation.
The disturbing Kafka-esque genius apparent in Ernest Hekkanen’s novella I’m Not You (New Orphic $18) brings to mind van Gogh’s fate. Is it possible that one hundred years from now people will be reading this existentialist allegory and wonder how it could have gone unrecognized during the artist’s lifetime? Like van Gogh, who sold one painting, Hekkanen has only been published (twice) by one commercial press.
For his 46th title, he has introduced a nameless character who is discovered beaten almost to death in the woods of Manning Park. Brought to a hospital in Abbotsford, he cannot recall his name, or his past. He draws a complete blank, much to the consternation of the police and medical authorities. The man—who reluctantly accepts being addressed as ‘Sir’ in lieu of anything else—sometimes has a nagging voice in his head that questions his thinking, but he is helpless in his efforts to cooperate with other humans who are thoroughly perplexed by his amnesia.
In great pain, Sir eats again, he defecates. He is very frightened when he sees a face in the mirror. He does not recognize what everyone else insists must be his own reflection. He doesn’t know himself; so he only knows that he is not other people.
Mostly he wants to get his clothes back. It is humiliating to be held prisoner in a hospital as a mere victim of circumstance. There is no indication that he has committed any wrongdoing.
Finally he escapes down the elevator only to be dragooned by three nefarious men in a black van. They drive him back to the woods in Manning Park and they start beating him… The opening paragraph of I’m Not You is repeated, word for word.
Is that giving too much away? Well, hardly anyone is going to read it for another one hundred years anyway.