A highly experimental novel in the vein of the 1930s/40s surrealism, full of metaphors and classical allusions - particularly Dante’s Inferno. The nameless narrator takes the reader on a journey to discover the source of his suffering and you are led through a highly Dante-esque trip to the bowels of his being, the earth (metaphorically speaking, of course), and mind. A deep sense of alienation, with ruminations on sexuality, love, death and sickness.
It is sickness which takes center stage as the main metaphor for the narrator’s sense of anguish and alienation. The prose reeks with putrefaction, blood and shit and at times almost reads like a literary version of Cannibal Corpse. He vividly describes the stench emanating from his decaying body, causing most people to steer clear away from him, so much so that at first he’s taken to wearing a mask to hide his breath then eventually becoming a shut in. Many visits to doctors follow who often find “nothing”. Then the descent into his personal hell slowly begins, relating his sense of free floating, disconnection from the world to that of a jellyfish in the ocean, then on to the deepest depths of the earth.
There are shades of Italo Calvino and Jorge Luis Borges in his writing, which is superb - but it’s highly metaphorical nature, wealth of symbolism and surreal transgressions make this a somewhat difficult read. It’s poetically rich as well and one can’t help being reminded of the old Italian classics. It may take additional reading to “get” all of what’s being said/done here but it’s rare to find a contemporary novelist willing to take such risks. Recommended.