Love brings the fall

Love

Peter Nadas. Translated by Imre Goldstein <em>Jonathan Cape, 144pp, £10</em>

ISBN 022406136

An unnamed man decides to end his relationship with his lover, Eva (a significant name if ever there was one). He goes to her apartment and realises he will not be able to tell her. They smoke a joint. While Eva rolls a second, the man goes out to the balcony and she confesses: "I never go out on it! This railing is too low not to tempt one into thinking." After the second joint, a third is rolled, smoked, and so begins a cycle of little varied events and repetitious thoughts. By the time they reach the stub of the third joint, the man is suspended in space and time. He cannot tell whether Eva's presence, or his own, is real. He hears her, but can't see her. Touches her, but can't feel her. So he attempts to redefine himself and his surroundings. But as despair rapidly increases, the only escape seems to be via the balcony. He jumps, falls, but isn't released from his deceptive thoughts. In reality, nothing has happened. The two lovers stand in the middle of the room, hugging.

The fall evokes the biblical story of Adam and Eve, with marijuana standing in for the apple. The rhythm of the words has a vertiginous effect, while the sense of hopelessness is reinforced by the novel's structure. Nadas's omission of historical details - how the relationship started and why it is to end - means the reader is as uncertain as the narrator, whose frightening logic leads him to believe that "the idea is not to relate one to another, because using the circular reasoning of the past I cannot determine the present".

Ends are left untied, nothing changes, only variants and confusion abound. Love, for Nadas, seems never as perfectly executed as this work itself.