Perversion of reality

Whether we had to use a word to describe the dominant narrative mode used by the American Brian Evensonit would certainly be the word “ crack. »
Its horror, both psychological and physical, stems from a slow process of alteration of reality, the author ” cracking what one takes for granted and watching his characters’ psyches crumble in on themselves as said crack widens.
This was evident in his first novel, Father of Lies, which saw Elden Fochs, man of the Church and father of a family, falling into the depths of horror and depravity. This tendency to corner reality and corner his characters into an implacable mechanism leading straight to madness was also found in many of his short stories from his first work, Altmann’s language. It is therefore normal (and expected) find the same process for Inversioncertainly one of the most famous novels of Brian Evenson…and one of his most radical with The Brotherhood of the Mutilated.

“For who can tell who else was biding his time in the recesses of his brain, like the worm in the fruit? »

Written in 2006, Inversion is the very first book translated into French by Brian Evenson by Julie and Jean-Rene Etienne in the cult collection Batch 49 from Look for noon. Curiously, its French title does not particularly honor its much more evocative original version: The Open Curtain. But never mind, sinceInversion is a reading experience you won’t forget.
Let’s start from the beginning: Rudd Theurer is a rather fragile and self-effacing teenager when he comes across what he thinks is proof of the existence of a half-brother in his dead father’s belongings kept in the cellar by his mother . Stunned by her when he tells her about this discovery, Rudd will start to rehash this information again and again until he discovers that his half-brother, Lael, actually lives in Springville not far from his own home. At the same time, Rudd must submit an assignment about a hero of an era that fascinates him. But sadly, Rudd has no hero to identify with. (normal since for many boys, the father acts as the first hero). Deprived of this fundamental landmark and deeply shaken by the secrets that his mother would keep about his half-brother, he comes across the sinister story of a certain William Hooper Young who, in 1903 in New York, allegedly murdered a young girl , Anna Nilsen-Pulitzer. Height of horror for the young boy, William was not only the grandson of one of the founders of the Mormon Church but would have, in addition, killed according to an obscure unavowable rite of this same religion called ” blood atonement. »
…And if it’s a shame, it’s because Rudd is himself a Mormon!
From then on, things will gradually crack in the mind of the young man and we feel, little by little, that Rudd’s logic is altered as mantras evil invade his thoughts. Brian Evenson gradually takes us on a horrific spiral that seems to have no end.

“God has drawn a curtain between his kingdom and me, and that curtain can no longer be removed. When I was little, I felt his presence sometimes. Today, never again. »

For this, he will use keywords, phrases that become sort of quasi-supernatural formulas for Rudd, as if invested with an occult power that we would not be able to perceive.
What is important in Inversion, is that nothing is really as it seems at first sight and that the perceptions of the main character are not reliable…and that they will always be less as one dives into the story. that he does not report to us. A narrative that seems to double up with Rudd’s investigation of William’s sinister history, like an image of his own psyche being split in two. But it’s the violence and cruelty, mixed with Rudd’s own personal story, that will definitely turn the whole thing upside down.
We know it, Brian Evenson is himself a Mormon and one of the central obsessions of his work concerns religion and what it does to man, to the believer.
Does she preserve or does she damn ?
In the case of William, it is clearly the second choice since through the Mormon religion, the teenager will completely drop out since drowned by the rites, the secrets, the codes and the symbols which accumulate in his mind like so many stones against a dam already ready to collapse. It is through two Mormon rites in particular, blood atonement and marriage, that the crack finally becomes a fracture and then an abyss that literally sucks him into a hallucination where he is now unable to discern fact from fiction. …and to recognize their own identity!

“In life, how many things could one repress, and how long could they remain repressed? »

After what embodies the first shift in horror for the story (and for Rudd), Brian Evenson opens an unexpected second part on the character of Lyndi, a young woman brought to meet Rudd in circumstances that are complicated to say the least. We find once again this will to torture of an already fragile mind and confronted with a sudden rupture of its own reality. Above all, we finally witness an unconscious denial of reality for the purpose of protection, a bit like Rudd but this time to escape a direct traumatic event and not to escape his own madness which lurks in the convolutions of his brain. .
It would be futile to recount the sequence of events and impossible to correctly narrate the third and last part of the novel, a total and uncompromising hallucination which constantly causes the carpet to slip under the feet of the still disoriented reader. At this point, like Eldon Fochs in the last pages of Father of Lies or like Kline in the bloody epilogue of The Brotherhood of the Mutilatedthere is no turning back and no escape route for the hero who has fallen headlong into the madness that surrounds him. Inversion confuses the roles: that of the victim and that of the executioner, that of the hero and the criminal, that of the madman and the sane, that of the believer and the fanatic. Brian Evenson shows how religiosity and the rites that surround it destabilize and can easily border on pure and simple madness. His novel, difficult and radical, both by its clinical and descriptive coldness but also by its desire not to ignore any of the mental flaws of its unfortunate heroes, is not for everyone, far from it. It is necessary to adhere to this feverish dissection which does not give a damn about the identity of the killer and for whom the mental journey represents the only true interest of the crime. Because it is the path to madness, the destruction of the body by the mind that interests the American before anything else and not the murder weapon or its discovery.

Like quicksand, the story of Inversion sucks in the reader and Rudd Theurer. A chilling dissection of a mind collapsing in on itself by the weight of its family history and religious culture, Brian Evenson’s novel disturbs and haunts, like a devious and infamous monster lurking in the confines of your mind. ready to crack in turn.

Rating: 9/10

— Also available in pocket version at 10/18 :