‘The Exorcist’s Travelogue’ – by George Berguño

I’m due shortly to start below on this page another of my gradual real-time reviews, turning leitmotifs into a gestalt.

And it is of ‘The Exorcist’s Travelogue’ by George Berguño (Passport Levant MMXI). A book I purchased from the publisher.

There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years. Indeed, this is said with the knowledge that a busy Season is afoot and many people have calls upon my time. So I do not wish any of you interested in this review to keep returning to this page and finding nothing added. However, I do not know how to resolve this problem ….

CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the book, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading it. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.

All my real-time reviews are linked from here: http://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

All my Ex Occidente Press (Passport Levant) real-time reviews here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/ex-occidente-press-real-time-reviews/

Landscape format, sewn hardcover with dust-jacket printed on deluxe heavy paper, cloth boards, gold and silver folio, silk ribbon, end papers and full-color frontispiece.
There are 128 pages in total. The edition is limited to sixty copies of which this one is hand-numbered 20.

I am pleased to see this publisher (Dan Ghetu of Ex Occidente Press) is still prolific in publishing great books, contrary to what I was led to understand and as publicly anticipated by the publisher himself a few months ago. I hope the logistics of book delivery and authorial care have improved from what I was also led to believe publicly from various third parties some time ago. I’ve never needed to complain in respect of myself, I hasten to add.


The Son’s Crime

“There is something disconcerting about standing alone in a space that was built for a crowd.”

A moving story or fable or parable of a son walking with his father by the British Museum – and the loss or transience of relationships in Magritte-like suddenness of vision – or a star that tries to hide its transience from itself through becoming a red dwarf (for example) – the comfort of transience in its form of permanence as transience through repeated transfer between generations of loved ones – even between strangers masquerading as loved ones (or vice versa). Even the book itself – a truly heavy-duty artefact – seems intent on surviving the eventual destruction of our planet. (13 Jul 11)

Flaubert’s Alexandrine

“I remember well the first time I saw a corpse. My father’s body, yes, it was when my father died, only four years ago.  […] and I was amazed that his eyelids did not flicker.”

[Indeed, for me, fours years ago, almost exactly. A state in-between that still exists in memory even though the body’s now decomposed and eyelids peeled]. This story, meanwhile, following the previous one, in pre-Alexandrian Lawrence Durrell, and we are faced with neither transience or permanence but a state between them, where Flaubert’s fate is inadvertently determined towards writing a novel beyond the present’s scurrillity – a potentially second-rate novel that would create such a semi-immortality through a touch of greatness left unsullied by his own body’s carnal needs and his story’s listener’s typically male gaucheness. Yes, a story within a story, though. And so we wonder where the genius truly lies. In he who facilely writes the masterpiece? Or in the one who set up the synchronicities of a soundboard to allow it to be written? (13 Jul 11 – three hours later)

The Leviathan at Rifsker

“Perhaps the time had come for Icelanders to face the end of history.”

Charming – yet brutal – tale (presumably in an Edda mode) where a finback whale is stranded and men fight each other as well as strange weather in contiguity with the craggy land to create legends together with much-needed food. And, like all real legends, this one swims off to last forever in the trickles of time itself, I guess – ignited by a synergy of man and nature, eye to eye. Transience outstaring permanence and vice versa. Plus a prose style that utilises words like ‘horror’, ‘ridiculous’, ‘eerie’, ‘creepy’, ‘dreadful’ within a beautifully honed ‘fabulousness’ as if these words are being used for the first time (which then they perhaps were beyond any ability to disguise them by translation). (14 Jul 11)

A Chronicle of Repentance

“…, and disrobed me with invisible fingers.”

A chronicle can never begin or end, I sense, as someone needs to tell a chronicle, and its beginning and its end are only restricted by what that teller can tell by dint of knowledge or his/her own finite life being within rather than overlapping the period in question of which he tells. But can a chronicle fill in its own gaps (such gaps being at either end as well as partway through) by dint of parthenogenetic imagination. But to save one’s body from ultimate torture in Hell by giving it just a part of that ultimate torture in life is a fool’s errand, a misguided absolution by either one’s self or chronicle of self. And the carnal needs of one person are often simply satisfied by fulfilling the carnal needs of another.  But all humanity is connected by desire – for, without desire, they may not have existed in the first place. Eternity through desire, each of us passing the baton of life to another. But, one day, you may give birth to an invisible body on an empty stage rather than just a body, say, with its fingers invisible by having been burnt off in that partial attempt to avoid Hell’s torture.  That ultimate creation of invisibility in the guise of something that you deem as real: a creation by those creatures one hated in life, those Pigeons from Hell flying across your last balcony. This is not what I found in this story. This is what this story found in me. (14 Jul 11 – another ten hours later)

The Sad Eyes of the Lewis Chessmen

“…, I saw eyes, infinitely sad eyes, gazing back at me from across the centuries.”

With my name, it may not surprise you to learn I once visited (in the 1970s) the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides and to Uig itself.  This story intrigues me especially, then.  Starting from a cafe meeting so common in 20th century Mittel European literature towards an initially academic congeniality from MR_James-iana to a non-Euclidean Lovecraftianism – I travel with a knowing wink towards the sense of this ostensibly plain narrative (that enables me to relax from the intensities of review that I found myself experiencing with the previous stories) – yet there is an Edda feel here, too, a Flaubert’s Gambit, a transience-permanence parable and the ability to cheat logic for real through fiction, an invisible power that needs one to strip away bit by bit, move by move, sacrifice by sacrifice, one’s physical body to become a noumenon, nay, this story’s “No-Man” (Cf: ‘Norman’ at the tail end of this other review I completed yesterday!). (15 Jul 11)

The Loneliness of the One-Night Lamia

“And so our search for love is love itself.”

I don’t know if this relates to something I said earlier above: i.e. “And the carnal needs of one person are often simply satisfied by fulfilling the carnal needs of another.”  But there is more “ancient longing” in this story or parable and here, alongside resonance with the transience-permanence of such longing, the theme of Freudian ‘Transference-Love’, in fact a Freudian psychoanalyst protagonist with a MR_Jamesian friend whose staggering form of apparent conviviality leads to the bleakness of what I can only call the Loneliness of a Long-Distance Lover, i.e. the nightmare of a date with a Lamia. A Ligottian atmosphere in her venue or ‘trap’, and it is telling – in view of the foregoing context of this book – that her fingers are what end up on his neck … making us wonder whether this is a sign of hope or despair. (15 Jul 11 – an hour later)

The Farewell Letter

“Suddenly, I spied Joseph Stalin on the opposite balcony – and our eyes met.”

…with another ‘ancient longing’? Mikhail Bulgakov – being written about by his wife to his sister (if I’ve got that right!). — “…several years trickled by” and there is much to ponder here: things to dwell upon that should never really resolve this book’s coda. Accessible or esoteric history of our recent times, reincarnation (permanence?) by lycanthropy or anthropomorphism, the misanthropic transience of old fogies like me and Molière’s Alceste. The mating-dance of literature with literature. The eventual madreperl of regret.  It’s like listening to an unknown piece by Mahler as the last piece in the last concert. Tonight is the First Night of the Proms.  Gothic Symphony this Sunday. Another truly great book, I estimate, from the Magus, Dan Ghetu. [If they don’t know each other already, I humbly suggest this book’s author should become acquainted with the published fiction of a veteran Austrian/English lady by the name of Frances Oliver (with a Freudian background) – and, of course, vice versa. And I mean that in the nicest possible way or with the best of intentions.] (15 Jul 11 – another 3 hours later)



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8 responses to “‘The Exorcist’s Travelogue’ – by George Berguño

  1. Dear Des (if I may),

    Thank you for the wonderful review of my second collection of stories, The Exorcist’s Travelogue (and a very belated thanks, also, for the review of my first book, The Sons of Ishmael). I particularly liked the way you conveyed the impression each story was making on you as you read. By the way, you were right to suspect I have been influenced in my writing by the medieval Icelandic sagas (and Lovecraft, etc & etc). Also by the way, in The Farewell Letter, the protagonist (Yelena Sergeyevna) was writing to Mikhail Bulgakov’s brother Nikolai (i.e. Kolya is the familiar form of Nikolai) – and not the sister!

    George Berguño

  2. Thanks so much, George. Thrilled to hear that you’ve been following the review. And thanks, too, for the nudge of correction at the end. 🙂
    best regards, des

  3. Benjamin Uminsky

    Another great RTR Des, I have been following these for some time. This is my first post on your site. I have particularly enjoyed George’s stories since I first read Sad Eyes of the Lewis Chessmen on the Absent Willow Review website. I’m glad to know that there are others like myself who have enjoyed these tales.

  4. Thanks, Benjamin.
    It has suddenly occurred to me that – in my review – I did not really address the overall title of the book: “The Exorcist’s Travelogue”.
    Is it merely a resonant label – or is it intrinsic to the gestalt of the collection?
    I shall give this some thought – as I am currently stumped. Others’ thoughts on this would be welcome.

  5. I suppose I should comment on the title of the book. If you glance at the Ex Occidente website, the first line of the description of my book reads, “Imagine if Herodotus had lived on through the centuries, collecting supernatural tales along his travels…” – In my very personal mythology, Herodotus is the exorcist who travels across the planet and across the centuries, reporting on the strange tales and apocryphal stories that he has heard. Although Herodotus does not appear in any of my stories, I have cited him as the founder of the historical-fantastic tale (or supernatural history); a literary form which I am very fond of. Best Regards, George

  6. That’s interesting. Thanks, George. I’ll follow that up on the Ex O site. Being a member of Wimsatt’s ‘Intentional Fallacy’ club since 1967, I tend to try not to read outside of the text itself (certainly when doing the review itself). But one cannot always maintain that stance. So your input is of course greatly valued.

    In the meantime, I have been thinking along the lines of my baton-in-a-relay-race theory of permanence or self-eternity. This may be a benign exorcist removing malign obstructions along the way of travelling that process, by writing these parable-like stories as (sometimes uneasy) purgatives or cathartics. Hmmm, perhaps not. 🙂

  7. Hello again,

    Just thought I’d let you know that I have posted “The Exorcist’s Travelogue” as a free e-book on the Goodreads website. That is, members of Goodreads can read it for free in their browsers (the book cannot be downloaded). The e-version of the book contains notes to the stories which were not in the original Ex Occidente publication. The e-book version of “The Exorcist’s Travelogue” will remain a freebie until the publication of my third collection of short stories, entitled “The Tainted Earth”. This will be forthcoming from Egaeus Press in the autumn of 2012.

    Here is the link to the free e-version of “The Exorcist’s Travelogue”:



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