A Review of Jesse Ball’s “Silence Once Begun”
The style is haunting and… well, disjointed, I suppose is the only word I can use to describe it, but that isn’t quite right. Between “Interviewer’s Notes”, the protagonist’s interjections, the story is told through interviews, letters, and quasi-poetic attempts at the characters feeling lost and broken and searching. Every speaker warns the interviewer and reader not to trust the previous speakers.
In the last section of the book, on the verge of the big reveal, we’re told:
“You have to be careful whom you trust. Everyone has a version, and most of them are wrong. In fact, I can tell you quickly: they are all wrong. I am in a position to help you understand… the world is made up almost entirely of sentimental fools and brutes…
[I am] a sentimental brute, I suppose. One who means well, but has no feelings for others.”
The big reveal I mentioned isn’t even really the big reveal. That was. I just ruined the whole surprise for you, sorry. Because the underlying story, the Narito Disappearances, that ties all the characters together and keeps you turning the page, isn’t what this novel is really about, and it isn’t about silence either like Tue interviewer would have you believe, not as he understood it at the beginning of his search. It’s about trust.
The character of Jito Joo is taken advantage of by a man she trusted, she is manipulated into deceiving another in turn. Her punishment is to be forever alone, forgotten, unseen, unheard. The man who deceived her is similarly forgotten and ignored when his own deception is revealed.
So it is, that a silence once begun is a trust once betrayed, and, through pride or a sense of duty, even through love it is out inability to move beyond that betrayal. Instead, the silence becomes an abyss that swallows all memory of ourselves, until once begun we cannot find our way to stop it.