A Little Life. Hanya Yanagihara, New York: Anchor Books, 2016
«…But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor’d and sorrows end».
[W.Shakespeare, Sonnet XXX]
They say that the moment a woman gives birth, her inner organs just move inside as if they’ve been shaken for a while, like a tsunami. They say it takes some days or weeks to recover, because the mother needs time to come back to her original inner body distribution. Then, although she will begin to feel better, as soon as she recognises how it feels to be empty again, besides the baby itself and the fact of becoming a new sort of human being called «mother», the fact is that physically, she will never feel the same she was before pregnancy.
I guess reading this book makes you feel somehow that way. It deals with intimacy to such a raw extent that these four characters and their experiences in life, take possesion of one’s thoughts, feelings and also inner organs. A Little Life occupies them for a while (more than 800 pages but less than nine months) and some day it just ends, and life goes on, differently.
I’ve read Hanya Yanagihara’s acclaimed novel right after a trip to Argentina. I needed a strong story to help me while «transitioning» from the summer in Buenos Aires to the late winter in Madrid. Nobody warned me and I jumped into the gripping and consuming world of Malcom, JB, William and Jude without parachute.
It is a story, a long one; the sort of story you enjoy because it goes back and forward throughout more than thirty years, a story which anchors one of its protagonists to your mind, the way he does to his fictional friends in the story: you will never be the same after meeting Jude. I promise.
There is love in the lifes of these male characters: brotherly love, paternal love, a love beyond friendship, and also sexual love. Circumstances in A Little Life unexpectedly weave almost unbearable suffering with deep levels of friendship. You can ask yourself «How is this possible? How can you get to know all of this misfortune, such an amount of tragedy and still believe in strings attaching human beings?» and probably the answer is that those strings are made of knowledge of the people you keep around your whole life: those you once chose, your friends, and yes, you love them but maybe you didn’t know how much.
The amazing symphony of A Little Life has a draw on the reader which borns from this messianic character of Jude St. Francis. He purges and redeems the way classic compositions do when you listen to them. You can’t avoid empathize with his stunning calvary, and experience his long-lasting hell while you’re reading it carefully depicted.
And suddenly it just ends, and your new life goes on.