Already on the second page of this masterpiece it is written: "A murder was committed in one southern outpost a few years ago. In that tragedy, two officers, a soldier, two women, a Filipino and a horse took part." In one polished sentence, McCullers frames the whole story. We know there will be a murder, but we read the novella to the end with rising suspense to know who the victim will be and who will be his murderer. And what the hell do Filipinos and horses do there?
Early 20th century, military base, atmosphere of decadence south of Leah. Five central characters in the book: Captain Weldon Penderton and his wife Leonora, Major Maurice Langdon (Leonora's lover) and his wife Alison, and Private Algie Williams. Another character, Ancletto, Allison's Filipino servant, is campy, colorful and blunt, and McCullers, in her literary sophistication, uses her spectacular lightness to open the door to a much heavier, darker, and more serious preoccupation with repressed homosexual sexuality.
Despite the tight structure and paucity of characters, "Reflections with a Golden Eye" is not a spectacle of talking heads gathering in one room. The landscape descriptions open this room to space, and McCullers makes wonderful use of them to reflect moods and create an atmosphere that foreshadows what's to come, much like the soundtrack accompanying a movie.
Carson McCullers is one of the great American writers. Her life was short and full of illness and suffering. From a very young age, she suffered from rheumatism, which also damaged her heart, and from repeated strokes. At the age of 50, she died due to a brain hemorrhage. In 1940, at the age of 23, she published the amazing novel Lone Hunter is the Heart. A year later, at the age of 24, the novella "Reflections in a Golden Eye" was published. I note her age, because the same wonder gripped me both when I read The Hunter and when I read Reflections—how could such a young man write such a profound, so moving, deeply toned literary work, and do so with such virtuoso skill? I don't make frequent use of these terms, but the words "genius" and "greatness" come to mind in this context.
Thus begins a long, hair-raising scene, during which the horse bursts into an uncontrollable gallop through the forest, the captain barely holds on his back, and a thorn sticking out of one of the trees tears his left cheek
"Reflections with a Golden Eye" deals with homosexuality, sadism, voyeurism and fetishism, explores the limits of eroticism and touches on the outsiders and fragility of "normality."
Slowly, Captain Penderton's passion builds for the silent Private Williams, who is sometimes unclear whether he is a man or an ancient, half-human creature. Williams, for his part, is mesmerized by Leonora, the first woman he ever saw naked. Leonora, oozing lazy sexiness, is unaware of her erotic appeal, unaware of her erotic appeal, unaware that at night Williams sneaks into her room to watch her sleep.
Something in this circle of attraction is broken when Captain Penderton one day shows up at the base stables and demands to ride Firebard, his wife's horse – a horse that plays an important role, and one gallop is a thrilling, hair-raising metaphor for her husband's true desires, the captain.
At the beginning of the ride, the captain loosens the reins, to a degree that causes the horse to be drunk in disguise. Then he restrains him violently, without warning. "He has always feared horses; He rode them only because it was customary to do so, and because it was another way to harass himself." Thus begins a long, hair-raising scene, during which the horse bursts into an uncontrollable gallop through the forest, the captain barely holds on his back, and a thorn sticking out of one of the trees tears his left cheek. He felt himself galloping into oblivion.
"Reflections in a Golden Eye": adapted into a film starring Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor,
"From the moment he let go of life, suddenly the captain began to live. A huge and crazy joy surged in him. This emotion, as unexpected as the gallop of the horse when he plunged down the slope, the likes of which the captain had never known." At the end of this wonderful and terrible gallop, the captain meets Private Williams, naked, leaning against an oak tree.
The preoccupation with homosexuality is reminiscent of Brokeback Mountain, the Oscar-winning film based on a 1997 short story by Annie Perrault, and Thomas Savage's novel The Power of the Dog, published in 1967. McCullers was many years ahead of them. What these works have in common is the preoccupation with ancient, gritty homosexuality, and the tension that ostensibly exists between the masculine occupations – an army officer or a cowboy in the wilderness of America – and the erotic attraction between men, which is at the same time violent and sweet gentleness.
"Reflections with a Golden Eye": deals with homosexuality, sadism, voyeurism and fetishism,
From the beginning of reading "Reflections in a Golden Eye," Anat Inhar's amazing translation stood out. It is a spectacular translation, which manages to preserve the wild beauty and complexity of McCullers' work. Einar's translation is a work of art in itself. For example, the following description: "It was a pleasant place thanks to an elongating double row of young maple trees, which cast cool, fragile and windblowing shadows on the lawn and pavement. In spring, the leaves of the trees were green and glowing, and when the warmer months came, they spread a dark, serene hue. In late autumn they were fiery gold."
27 years after they were written, two of McCullers' books have been adapted into films. John Huston directed Reflections in a Golden Eye, starring Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor. The film failed at the box office, perhaps because of its subject matter, although Houston considered it one of his best films. Brando and Taylor were at their best. McCullers died two weeks before the premiere, in October 1967.
"Reflections in a Golden Eye," Carson McCullers. From English: Anat Inhar, Keter
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