I don’t suppose I’d be giving the game away if I said that Turgidovsky’s Delicious Air ends with a death. I would, however, be lying, for it doesn’t quite end with a death – no, that’d be far too sentimental. It ends with yet another glimpse at people leading deathly lives; people who have yet to find their eternal rest, if rest it is.
Proceeding that, though, we get what is possibly the longest, most clinical description of a corpse I’ve read for a while. Thirty eight pages! And yet I’d be deceiving you if I suggested that these pages aren’t, in their own special way, exhilarating: crammed with the odour of decay, oozing with putrescence like nobody’s business. There are points at which you think it’d be easier to kill yourself than turn over the next page – and yet you plough on regardless, enjoying each depressing line as much as the last.
And so I have reached what some people call ‘the death of the book’. The end. Ah, but have I finished the book? Not at all. What can any man learn from reading a book just once? Back to the beginning with you, I say, back to the beginning. Read, re-read and re-read again.
Not that I won’t be taking a short break. After all, Turgidovsky is gruelling stuff. He is the arch-prince of spirit-dampening: the great lord of lugubriosity – and for this, I salute him. But I’m sure that he even understands the need to step out of the chamber of desolation every now and again; to sup, sometimes, on that delicious air of life he seems so keen to disparage. One day a year, perhaps, he treats himself. Just one day he gets up late, turns off his logical mind, and learns to admire life.
Or maybe not.