Datura, or A Delusion We All See

Leena Krohn, trans. from the Finnish by J. Robert Tupasela and Anna Volmari. Cheeky Frawg (www.cheekyfrawg.com), $13.99 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-0-9857904-6-2
Krohn subverts traditional philosophical and literary expectations in this episodic novel of fluid reality. When the unnamed narrator, the sickly editor of fringe journal the New Anomalist, ingests toxic datura seeds, she is bombarded by perceptions of phantoms, vampires, and alarming eccentrics. Are they hallucinations or denizens of other dimensions? Is the datura plant responsible, or is it the enigmatic Voynich manuscript, a secret key to reality penned by Roger Bacon? A slew of sympathetic, disturbing grotesques attack the narrator’s equilibrium, including the Master of Sound, a detector of silent sounds, and the Hair Artiste, whose dead son’s photograph changes to show the shadow of wings. Perception, the faulty tool by which we define reality, dissolves. Mr. Chance, advocate of paranormal coincidence, and an old woman running just ahead of the narrator are embodiments of overlapping realities shaping her transforming awareness. Shadows of Kafka and Strindberg are infused with Krohn’s love of her fragile characters. The absurdist antilogic of nightmare colors this parable of elegant chaos and denies readers moral comfort or clear resolution. Aficionados of the surreal will find this a contemporary masterwork. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/23/2013
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