• Daniele Gennara

God's crooked lines

I started reading God's crooked lines by Torcuato Luca de Tena under Andrea's warm advice. Not only because of the novel itself, but because of the simple fact that the last 6 years I had to deal personally with a psychiatric hospital. Unfortunately there is no Italian translation (and I will write a dedicated article on this, the great Italian bibliographic shortcomings) so I jumped into reading the original text.

The Spanish used has a classical style as you can expect from a member of the Real Academia Española, not at the level of a D'Annunzio for Italian but similar to a Carlo Levi.

For me, the reading inevitably began with an 'architectural' clinical eye, a bit like what happened to me when I read Floubert, Ottieri or Dürrenmatt (but this one under my own personal view of its Minotaur). It was surprising not only to find some similarities between a psychiatric hospital of today and one of the 70s, but above all to consider the narrative space, which for me was only a geometric task and a functional interlocking, as an alive space as to get nicknames: 'the frontier', 'the sack', 'the lions' cage'.

To write this book the author was really interned in a psychiatric hospital; considering it helps to understand why these lines have so much life in their descriptions.

Once familiar with the hospital itself, the story opens, and I explain it without mentioning the plot itself, but rather describing the possibilities opened when you play with the human mind.

This book is a refined game of magic boxes where subjects are indefinite variables that can upset the sense of the history. Let me give you a few examples.

Sick people can be really sick, or they can imagine that they are sick, or they don't know that they are, or they want to be sick, or they may be forcibly judged that they are. What is the truth? Each of these variables in different parts of the book are truth and lie. But it is only the beginning.

The variables are also valid for the medical staff: doctors can be professionals, or pretend to be professionals, or not wanting to be professionals; they could even be sick and not know they are. Here the same question: what is the truth?

The reader passes through all these magic boxes, each witnessing a different truth, feeling a terrain that sometimes is swamp, sometimes sand, sometimes rock. Progressively the way is opened to a growing restlessness: is the author the real patient? Or is he pretending to be? Or does he not know that he is? Or wouldn't he want to be?

Summing up: is this a story of farce, where an author who pretends to be sick tells a story where doctors pretend to be real doctors who are treating fake patients? Or is this a story of ignorance, where an author does not know he is sick and writes a story where doctors do not know they are real doctors who are treating sick people who do not know they are sick?

Or a mixture: a crazy author writes a story where real doctors are dealing with people who want to be sick.

It's up to you discover the truth.