Page 200 and this novel has turned into a slog. It is as if Lawrence had spent a season in Mexico, and grew so entranced with his ‘insights’, with his profound understanding of Mexico, that he cannot escape the gravity of the ‘truths’ he wishes to convey, the endless explorations of the Mexican character and society that he feels compelled to make.
Page after page of examinations and analysis, endless passages where we are simply told about the soft, cold, reptile, strong, inchoate, powerful, sensual, cruel, pathetic Mexicans. Endless ruminations on their character, their desires, their culture, their society, their habits and ways, all narrated vaguely through Kate, who exists in a state of half fascination, half repulsion in their midst. The Indian, the White Man, the Mexican, the Gringo. Each striving against each other, against their natures, against their blood. Endless pages which are saved from dreariness by Lawrence’s incredible prose. His ability to spin forth incandescent descriptions of the countryside, of the atmosphere, of the moods and moments.
But it has grown tedious. Lawrence speaks with the authority of God when he pronounces his judgement on these peoples, homogenous and bestial. It grows most tiresome. There is no movement, no action, no development of plot. Rather, we witness slow afternoons during which Kate watches and reflects endlessly on her servants, slow evenings during which the people of the village revolve around a square, acting out their mean passion plays, till the novel feels more like a fever dream, a dream state, where nothing quite happens but all is laden with smothering symbolism and meaning.
This is Nietzsche gone to rot, this is the will-to-power mixed in with an idea of blood-truth, with a vision of Mexico that is overcome by the author’s own orgasmic pride and pleasure in the telling. Lawrence is more fixated on showing us his understanding of Mexico – more involved in his puerile anthropology then he is of telling a tale. I grow very, very tired of it all, and push on more out of a desire to simply finish the tale than any lingering appreciation for his verbal skills.
Here’s a taste:
“He (the Mexican) could not see that the bird was a real living creature with a life of its own. This, his race had never seen. With black eyes they stared out on an elemental world, where the elements were monstruous and cruel, as the sun was monstruous, and the cold, crushing black of the rain was monstruous, and the dry, dry, cruel earth.
And among the monstrosity of the elements flickered and towered other presences: terrible uncouth things called gringos, white people, and dressed up monsters of rich people, with powers like gods, but uncouth, demonish gods. “