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Book review: “In the middle of nowhere” (2003). J. M. Coetzee. Edit. Contemporánea”

By José Martín Maturana.

“As long as I have the freedom to be, nothing will be impossible,” words expressed from deep in the heart of Magda, the main character of the novel In the Middle of Now here by J. Coetzee. A heartbreaking book, subtly beautiful when it comes to conversations about human pain and its constant struggles to gives pace to the forgotten.

Magda lives with her father, but she feels the pain o f not being accepted by him, as she relates: “I was absent. Neither was I missed. For my father, I have been an absence for life. “One of the deepest and most difficult pains to assimilate, to feel the rejection of who should support me or open the door to the realization of my existence, an existential hurricane gives us greater strength to defend one’s life?

In the middle of now here is a reflection of that feeling of being lost, in a tunnel vision, contained feeling the narrowness of the world. However, from the lens of Existential Analysis, she seeks to break with determinism and to be the protagonist of her own existence with all the difficulties that this implies; Fears, anxieties, anguish, not being able to let go, pain, grief, etc.

As Magda tells us, “I fight to not become one of those beings that history forgets, I’m an old maid who keeps her diary closed, but also more than that.” When all the lights are out, I smile in the dark. Teeth flicker, even if nobody wants to believe it. “That struggle to find our space in the world and rise above pain is an access to our freedom to rewrite our history in the present.

The book touches on central themes for Existential Analysis, especially the first fundamental motivation, the power of being-in-the-world. From the difficulty of rural South Africa, where the traditions ruled the human dignity of those who were under the master. Even if it was one’s own blood like in Magda’s story, with an absent father and a mother who passed away in early childhood.

To face reality, one must have the conditions to be able to be in the world; which are: space, protection and support. Without these conditions, we easily fall in the emptiness or in the abyss. Magda describes: “In a tale of conscious motivations, what could I be? My freedom is in my path. I am in a series of forces that are beyond my control, I soon will not be able to do more than squat in a corner to cry with tight muscles.” , from her feeling of narrowness, her suffering implies lack of space, support and protection in her life. Closed in her room, relegated to domestic duties toward the father and over turned in the space that gives her personal daily life.

Magda’s deep questions seem to be, “What can I do? What does a human being do when she feels in the middle of nowhere? Who has not felt in their own space? Foreigner of your world? It is difficult to find an answer to the questions so transcendental, but what is possible to get out of this narrowness requires courage and exchange with the possibilities. In the words of the protagonist: “This is my hand of flesh and blood, It is the same hand every day. I take one step: this is the earth, as real as myself, real to them arrow. Therefore, words must allude to a time yet to come. “

Courage is a leap over our tranquility, in which one assumes that the floor where she or he falls may not be safe. This jump is a risk like everything in life, but taking this jump helps us feel more confident and faithful with our selves. Elements fundamental to feel that I am gaining a space in my existence and that there are paths for my life. A difficult jump, often subject by the pain and the feeling of not being able, but other times prisoners of an erroneous perception of the own capacities to face her reality.

I cannot jump if there is no sincere dialogue with myself, because at the moment of jumping I must carry myself in my own arms. It is there for necessary to confront oneself through dialogue, as Magda very well in tuits: “It has always occurred to me that the words come to me and I let them go without anything. I have never known the true words of an exchange “. She is still in the inability to jump, but knows that here are words that raise her above her pain.

Coetzee traces paths of human pain, respectful of forgotten stories and concerned to give voice to those who have been silenced by human brutality. This book gives life to the woman left to the side in rural South Africa, in the life of the country, and buried by a postponed existence that does not leave her quiet.

Magda, through time, goes finding self-acceptance. Her daily life was an order to the interior vertigo that stalked her; the passage of the pages was the pause she needed to find a firm interior floor. Acceptance of reality helps Magda find enough space to be in that old house in the middle of a desert, losing her fear of an existence that timidly leaves to her encounter. From this existence in spite of how difficult life seems to Magda, arises a coming closer to life.  “What I consider my pain, although no more than loneliness, begins to move away from me. I return to freedom, a soft human animal, a mammal.” She feels life flowing again in side herself and the blood that give an inner shelter to that told cold space.

Magda shows us that pain is also part of life as well as joy, but it must be experienced in its extent and depth, only in this way can life rise in difficult times when the floor becomes an arid desert. Nothing makes it more difficult to feel than the denial of pain.  As the protagonist shows us, pain is often a pause before returning to life, in her own word s: “I feel happy. With your heart in your hands”.

The book is an invitation to follow the story of those who have no voice, who seek a response within and draw connections to their existence. As Magda says, “The feeling of loneliness is the longing for a place. That place is the center of the world, the navel of the universe. An invitation to divest ourselves of determinisms and realize ourselves in our possibilities, take life in our hands and take us as one who carries a newborn with a newborn baby, with the care we deserve and in the hope that hat fragility wills soon become life.

José Martín Maturana

Psychologist

Post title © in Existential Analysis (ICAE)

josemartinmaturana@gmail.com

Book review: “In the middle of nowhere” (2003). J. M. Coetzee. Edit. Contemporánea”

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