Another example that those poor endangered animals (that is, Underneath the Bunker readers) may have already come across. Of course, all of you will know, at least, that one of Oa Aayorta’s ‘novels’ is included on my Greatest European Novels list. The Endless Winter Night, to prod your memory lightly, is the name of it. Is it really a novel? Possibly, perhaps, probably. I’m not prepared to go into that just now. In fact, I’m rather more interested in Aayorta’s earlier – and first – work, which has never been called a novel – certainly not by the author at any rate, whose response to the sadly inevitable question ‘What is it?’ has always been a simple shrug of the shoulders. When it is categorised according to custom (and not, obviously, by the author) it is called a film. Hardly surprising, considering that it is, essentially, a film. A film that wants to be a novel. Or a novel that wants to be a film. Or neither. A non-film non-novel.
Silence with Subtitles, for the uninitiated, consists of footage shot during one man’s walk across Andorran. There is no sound, though a text is supplied, without pause, by way of subtitles. It is, to look at it one way, a novel written on a screen. Some (oh you canny clowns) have called it a filvel – others a novilm. The resulting confusion, typically, threw boulders into the path of its reception. Cinema-goers found it tedious. Readers of contemporary Andorran fiction missed the few showings it had – only to catch on to it, against the author’s wishes, in a pirated book version. Though it has since been made available on DVD (I’m told, though I’ve failed to track down a copy myself) it is the book version that continues to gather critical praise. It seems that people struggle when it comes to reading that many subtitles. But then Aayorta has never been one to let his readers sit comfortably. His work, to the dismay of many (including this reviewer) demands an active reader. It refuses to lie back on the puny deck-chair of our expectations. It is – to borrow a point from a comment made in the post below – always ‘novel’, but not always a ‘novel’.