jueves, 9 de enero de 2014

Trespass by Rose Tremain

Trespass by Rose Tremain is a novel that repeatedly meditates on and around the theme it takes from its title. The author’s glittering but deceptively simple prose dances through the magical realities of the characters’ lives, but always has in mind an overriding concept of space which is personal, a space which is also inevitably and necessarily invaded by interaction. Such invasions, such trespass upon another’s territory will leave footprints, imprints that set into memory and thus themselves become part of the space we call ourselves.

Trespass might be read as a conventional who-done-what. There is a rural house in southern France, where a brother and sister live. Aramon is decrepit and deceitful. He is untidy, avaricious and an alcoholic. He has also had a history of blackouts, and these are nothing new, not mere boozed-up sleep-ins. He has suffered them since childhood, adolescence at least. Audrun, his sister, or perhaps not his sister when opinions are shared, has tolerated his excesses throughout her life and now, living in the cottage that abuts his land, she apparently continues her pursuit of the quiet life. Audrun bears her own imprints of the past, brandings of origin and parentage that have threatened to devalue her very existence. This has apparently given Aramon the right, in the past and continuing present, to trespass on his sister’s space and to use it as is he has assumed ownership. It’s an invasion that Audrun has always resented.

It seems that Aramon has to be sober to admit his illness. His blackouts might be fits, though episodes might be a politer term. They have happened at various points in his life. They are associated with passion, with moments when emotion gets the upper hand, or alienation dominates, moments such as those when the possibility of realising a fortune excites previously unimagined possibilities in his imagination.

Such source of possible excitement arrives one day in the form of a probable purchaser of the house, a man who seems to have money in his pocket, more money than Aramon can even imagine, it seems. Anthony Verey is an antique dealer for London. He has had many years in the business and knows his stuff. He has been lucky - except he would probably claim mere good management - to have developed a loyal following of clients, who over the years have maintained his trade. But the clients have thinned out and now the business is running down. Anthony, as a child always rather protected by his elder sister, Veronica, now looks at her lifestyle with some envy. She lives in France, has a relationship with Kitty, who is an artist, and seems, at least from Anthony’s increasingly pressured point of view, to be living an idyll.

On a visit to France Anthony considers how he might replicate his sister’s perceived paradise by checking out a few properties, preferably secluded, remote perhaps, where he can rest, recline and recuperate. Funnily enough, Aramon’s farmhouse home has just gone on the market, with the deranged owner’s imagination lit up by the attached price tag that the estate agent has conjured.

But there are always problems… Not only o you have yet another foreigner wanting to buy up a piece of French real estate, yet another trespasser intending to invade, but also you have Audrun, the sister, inconveniently trespassing on the farmhouse land with her own little house within the boundary. And beyond that, Veronica’s life becomes less than a paradise as Anthony re-invades her space, when her partner begins to resent a renewed trespass on their stability.

And so we reach the point where trespass, somehow, somewhere, will transform into its alternative meaning of sin. Some of these people are suffused with guilt, remorse over what they have done or smothered by the weight of what has been done to them. A grand sin is committed. A trespass into another space, across another life, always leaves an imprint. Merely repaying the debt by visiting trespass in return is never sufficient to exact retribution, to secure reparation. And so a great sin is committed. But by whom? And for what motive? Whose trespass was a step too far?

Rose Tremain’s novel is a beautiful and often moving study of guilt, remorse and retribution. Her writing has a deep and exciting sensuality alongside a vivid sense of place. The characters become people, rounded personalities with their strengths and weaknesses, their passions and their frailties, people who must seek their own goals, often trespassing across the desires of others. Who might forgive them their trespasses?

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