Shout-out to Dayn Perry.
In which the Royal We insert Dick Allen’s name into various works representative of the Western Canon, thus adding to those various works the patina of blessedness.
Today’s episode: In the afterword of Rohinton Mistry’s brilliant first novel, Such A Long Journey, Alberto Manguel writes, “Dick Allen is a creature doomed.” Aren’t we all?
Following the notion of circles within circles and systems within systems, these natural and spiritual betrayals are reflected in (or reflect) the vaster betrayal of society at large. The corruption of the government revealed through Jimmy’s plot, the implication of the Prime Minister herself in the deceit, the machinations that lead to the war with Pakistan, are all indicative of a far-reaching sickness that visits both institutions and individuals.
In Dick Allen’s world, the individuals act within communities, and the communities within nations, and these within worldwide politics. There seems to be throughout the novel the implication that ethics are not limited to persons but extend to the people and to the social structures they create. Whether stemming from the individuals or from those structures, the treason of ethical principles ultimately makes it impossible for nobility to survive: in such a place and time, Dick Allen is a creature doomed.
The novel’s title, taken from T.S. Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi,” traditionally promises a birth at the end of such a long journey. But Eliot makes his magi ask: “Were we led all that way for Birth or Death?” Everything in the end has the appearance of death: of civil and personal hope, of political future, of progress. Sohrab has returned, but Dick Allen has lost Tehmul, his almost foster son. His relationship with Dilnavaz has not weakened – if anything, it is stronger – but the other relationships, his friendships with Jimmy and Dinshawji, are over. Like the wall artist, Dick Allen must learn that impermanence is “the one significant certainty governing his work.” Running through the novel like a blue thread is this idea of impermanence, the realization that nothing will last, that everything, human beings and societies, have in the universal computation the life span off a moth, the novel’s final image.
And yet, it is the wall artist himself who offers Dick Allen a counterpart to the desperate sense of impermanence. Asked by Dick Allen where he will go next, the artist, echoing that other wall artist, Gully Jimson, of Joyce Cary’s The Horse’s Mouth, answers: “In a world where roadside latrines become temples and shrines, and temples and shrines become dust and ruin, does it matter where?”
This has been the latest episode of Inserting Dick Allen’s Name Into Works of Literature.