There are books that cannot be described or interpreted, you simply have to read them. Masalai is one of them. However, the reader should certainly be adventurous enough to face the narrator’s complete negligence of the expected in any aspect of a novel’s fabric: characters, plot and relations.
Masalai successfully denies the authority of strict measurements of time, size and number of pages. Still, it seems to have been effortlessly shaped to give a paradoxical depiction of severe heaviness in translucent, but distinguished way. The deceptive amplitude and disposition of chapters brings up an interplay of genres, leaving us with an impression of reading fragments or inserted themes as separate works. It presents itself as a brilliant compendium of fragments connected by an overall impression of inability to complete anything. Within seemingly chaotic structure, absurdity is cleverly interrupted by moments of bitter and anxious introspection that dares the reader’s compassion.
The main character does not feel whole as a writer, father or son, but he is still obsessed with a blurred quest for purpose without strong will to figure it out. He diagnoses this disease precisely and chooses to mock it with a bitter smile. That is a mode of defending himself in front of a vicious mirror he faces every day. The mirror is a white and empty paper sheet. Painful, convulsive and extremely precise analyses of feelings produced by this confrontation with creative and existential crisis suggest the condition is not acute. It tends to last forever in addictive and playfully masochistic manner. In a well-played paradox, inability becomes productive. Leaving the work unfinished may serve as a preventive defence mechanism, a sort of self-denial, a manifest of internal struggle because a writer never seems to be able to call himself a writer. It can, on the other hand, be a guarantee of the immortality idea he keeps mocking.
None of this, however, should be taken too seriously. The lead character recognizes himself as a writer, but keeps questioning this notion. He even seems to find his own denial inspirational. Any hint of a decent motif does not seem persuasive enough and leaves him begging for more. Yet, he spontaneously captures convincing and solid stimulation in moments of weakness tied with perceptive sensibility. He sketches them in the form of bitter, but profoundly honest struggle and leaves the struggle unfinished. If asked for a reason, he would probably answer with a smile: “I choose to leave it unfinished because I can.” After all, he is only human, isn’t he?
Besides the writer and the book that cannot be written, the side characters are not truly human even though they bear human features. They are the sides of everyday reality not visible at first sight. The whole world of this novel shapes itself beneath the surface and comes out in an abrupt crush of poisonous pitch and curative dust. It constantly reproduces conflict of the primordial and the cultivated, of the flourishing and the rotten, of imagination and grey uniformity. Nevertheless, this encounter of monotonous and alienated everyday life in contemporary urban environments with pure creative energy that tries hard to fight the terror of dullness brings up a challenge that requires a bold and open-minded reader.
Consequently, due to its structure and main preoccupation, Masalai is a book that contains many other books and at least half of them are yet to be written. Is it not symptomatic that the title of the novel appears only in the last sentence of the last chapter and remains barely explained? Is it important to be well informed about what Masalai or Masalai is? This novel leaves us with the impression that the end is the beginning, but not a fresh beginning. It is a well-known and, regardless of difficult content, always a joyful beginning of a journey and companionship with a true literary gem that deserves to be reread and rewritten countless times.
World rights available