A seven-year-old boy is hit by a car and momentarily separated from life. When his eyes reopen, he can no longer discern the boundaries between reality and delusion, or perhaps between this life and the next. After a childhood spent battling mental illness and nightmares that blend with waking life, he will spend the rest of his life within the periphery of society, displaced, discarded, addicted, and desperately searching for a place in this world, fighting against an intensifying downward-spiraling current.
Beautiful, poignant, truthful, unforgettable
By Lesley Hayes on April 22 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
Just occasionally I read a novel and feel that the author already lives inside me – that they have travelled the same journey as me, and seen the things I’ve seen and know the things I know: not just ordinary things, but deep things, painful things, strange things, paradoxical mind-altering things – the things that can only be known by falling deep into the dark mysterious heart of what it means to be human. That’s how I feel about ‘Infinity’. It’s one of the most beautiful, poignant, truthful novels I’ve ever read, and one that I won’t forget and will almost certainly read again, if only for the sheer poetry of the language. Nico Laeser is a consummate artist of the written word.
“I searched all around the room for somewhere to hide the truth seeping from my eyes…” says the anonymous narrator of this novel in one of the earliest chapters. And a little later on: “I stepped inside with the learned stealth of small prey among large predators…” We read the heartrending account of his young life, from his near death experience on the first page through a distressingly abusive and neglectful childhood, all the way out to a troubled, perverse kind of escape and beyond in his adolescence and early manhood.
The imagery is just beautiful. To attempt to describe it would be like trying to sum up a huge canvas by a master like Chagall. It sang. It throbbed. It scared me and delighted me. This is writing at its lyrical, faultless, image-rich best.
I wanted at times to climb inside the pages of the story and rescue the child, and then the bewildered child still inside the almost man, knowing that it was already too late, and the best I could offer was to bear witness to his suffering. At the midpoint of the book is a poignant quote from Friedrich Nietzsche, which is an explanation, in part, for the whole premise of the novel:
‘Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.’
In the second half of the book the narrator’s story takes another direction – or perhaps the same direction viewed from another perspective. There are so many layers in this book that you take from it what you will, as a reader. It is, on one level, a journey of the self towards enlightenment and fulfilment in the same tradition as Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5.
Some may find the eventual ending tragic; some may see it as transcendent. I was deeply touched by it, and a little awestruck. Nico Laeser is a writer who deserves acclaim, who makes the label ‘indie author’ one to be proud to carry. I will be reading every book he writes, and already have ‘Skin Cage’, his second novel.