‘La Rastra’, by Joy Williams: the most beautiful and ruthless dystopia

With anger and with a sarcasm that only tells the truth, Joy Williams (Massachusetts, 1944) has written what is perhaps the most beautiful and ruthless fable, the hardest and most compassionate about the end of life on Earth. In her previous novel, The quick and the dead (Alpha Decay, 2014), written twenty years ago, some of the reasons that are also here appeared: uprooting and aridity, asylums and children alone, people who know how to kill, but do not know how to live. In the drag the links between life and death are not supernatural but the product of irreversible climate change.

With a narrative rhythm that is a whisper of agitated and turbulent blood, with a masterful ability to create sensible and delusional voiceswith a biting grace to make the dialogue irreverent pieces of cruel humor, and convinced that anthropocentrism has turned humans into exploitative beings and in a device of death, the author deploys unbeatable writing to narrate what happens when the planet has become an uninhabitable place and yet life somehow continues.

And I say somehow, because throughout this novel the characters travel through landscapes of pure desolation; pieces of packaged meat where there once were cows, black earth, barren soil, lakes of toxic foam, twelve lane highways, plastics and garbage and nights that never come; weapons cemeteries, nuclear waste fields, unbearable heat and no trace of animals or plants or water. There is hardly any food and everyone wanders around hungry.

Its protagonist, Khristen, is a teenager abandoned to her fate; her mother, first drunk and then addicted to tea, jumps from group to self-help group and new faiths, searching for a meaning to her presence on Earth. She obsessed with the idea that her baby daughter died and was reborn, and that she knows secrets that will be essential to save the planet, takes her to a high-capacity school and disappears. The school institution goes bankrupt and after years of confinement she goes out to look for her mother. A girl who faces the places of death alone and who has no other gift than to observe barbarism astonished and without understanding.

And that’s where this story really begins: a road movies where hope is an inconceivable idea and the unusual beauty of nature is, like the mother, lost forever. And fate leads her to Lola, a woman who leads an army of terminally cancerous elderly people ready to immolate themselves in the name of life; Her targets are scientists and pharmaceuticals, primate killers, agricultural oligarchs, the Navy and poets.

The novel takes the reader on a journey through the burning deserts of the
existence, violence and greed, but also compassion and listening

To hide the asylum, Lola runs a dirty and dilapidated motel where outcasts and outcasts live who have nowhere to go and indolently watch how things irremediably rot. There is also Jeffrey, a ten year old boy who lives obsessed with the ecological justice and the environmental crimes, a boy who is scolded by his mother, another drunken and faithless mother, when she grieves over a couple of dead fish.

And precisely, therein lies the key to this dystopian tale: the brutal split between humans and naturethe plunder without measure of the terrestrial resources, the death of the conscience of the life of others, the arrogance of men, the urgent need for a change of paradigm.

[Joy Williams: “Los escritores norteamericanos envidiamos el realismo mágico”]

Through the two children, the novel takes the reader on a journey through the burning deserts of human existence, violence and greed, but also its reverse as a longed-for rarity: compassion and listening, wonder at a flowering tree or plant. Because the collection of endearing characters is a gift that Williams makes in the face of the horror of a planet transformed into an open grave.

‘La Rastra’, by Joy Williams: the most beautiful and ruthless dystopia