“The absurd does not liberate, it binds.” — Albert Camus
I loved this book. It was probably my favorite book of 2018.
Scarred by tragedy and a world of unreliable adults, Theo finds his way to
manhood, sans solid role models, in our vale of sorrows. Along the way he’s
buoyed by a love-from-afar for a fellow tragedy-scarred girl; he’s nourished by
a charismatic and druggy best friend; and he’s soothed by the sweet oblivion of
a meticulously-meted drug habit.
Theo’s painful origins scream for remedy like Abel’s blood in the Garden. But
in this novel, as in real life, he has no choice but to bear his burdens and
journey onward. Fortunately, for the reader, and Theo, he has two key means
for surviving and contextualizing the tragedies that define him.
First, he has a philosophical-historical mind and we are privy to his
ruminations, reflections, and coping mechanisms. Second, Theo’s mother, an art
scholar, taught Theo to appreciate art and gifted him with the serenity and
equanimity that come from Schopenhauer’s aesthetic contemplation. The
primary object of Theo’s aesthetic contemplation is the priceless Dutch
masterwork The Goldfinch by Karel Fabritius. A curious and delicate painting,
it, like Theo, is the lone survivor of a tragedy: the gunpowder magazine
explosion at Delft.
We see Theo cherish, fret over, and worship this masterpiece. His
responsibility for and adoration of it is total because, like the narrator in
Camus’ The Fall, he stole it.