João Gilberto Noll’s Lord opens with a cryptic quote from Iain Sinclair: “The secret interiors of these post-human fortresses solicit conspiracy, acts of sexual transgression. Illicit exchanges between dealers.” Aging and impoverished, the narrator, an unnamed Brazilian author in decline, roams Heathrow looking for his contact. Although he’s accepted an invitation to work abroad, he’s suspicious of his own irrelevancy and plagued with a desire to reinvent himself. England seems like the catalyst he needs, but in this post-humanist tale, his unified perspective is a mask that’s already slipping.
When all that’s trapped in this unreliable narrator’s head begins to spill out, things swiftly decline. Amidst anxieties about work, nationality, sexuality, the body, and aging, his world becomes increasingly surreal—as does the narrative. As he swings between altered states of pure experience and personal transformation, narrative coherence becomes illusive. It’s replaced with a fluidity that’s composed alternately of visceral hungers, longings, and variable perspectives and identities.
Part of the novel’s challenge is the fact that his actions suggest a man who may or may not be connected to who he once was—or, really, any stable reality. Although his days unfold with increasing delirium, he maintains a continuous internal monologue, observing his every action with intellectual regard. Yet both his portrayal and the accompanying narrative structure seem to question the very nature of personhood, identity, and objectivity as they morph through changing perspectives.
Caught in the mind of a man unmoored, Noll’s novel bears witness to a grotesque second birth. All attempts to renovate, reincarnate, and, ultimately, escape the body’s animal demands only point to greater forces—not only those of fear, arousal, hunger, and health, but self-conception and self-contemplation, too.
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