Our soul at night was written by the American writer Alan Kent Haruf in 2014 and publish for the first time in 2015 after the Plaisoning Trilogy with which it shares the narrative spare style and the geographical setting: the fictional town of Holt, in Colorado. The writing occurs while the author was sick and close to pass away, which he did in 2014. So by reading the novel, one can perceive, notwithstanding its fictional traits, a voice talking about the value of emotions and relationships with a frank tone that encourages to reflect on life andits caducity.
An emotional path
Often those simple things able to make us happy tent to hide behind apparently insuperable obstacles, somewhere in the most secret places of our mind where emotions had built high walls intersecting like a maze. An unknown space that prompts us to reach its heart through a curvy path, full of tricks and blind alleys, difficult to identify and bypass.
Shyness, past mistakes, embarrassment, the fear of rejection and to be judged dig deep trenches where the maze walls lay strong foundations, able to paralyse and divide. So one may often have to face emotional barriers, accepting and welcoming them in the soul as they were innate virtues. Learning to see them as much concrete and necessary as the walls of our home, they do protect us and, at the same time, separate us from others.
An emotional path in the United States
Individual emotional barriers are erected in every country, but one could dare to say that in the North American culture their contours are particularly marked. There, the logic of appearance and the cult of individualism make even more difficult for people to ask for help and show their vulnerabilities. Instead the expression of emotions is often referred to the idea of being stronger, confident and independent. Therefore, the emotional maze that hides those simple things that may make us happy, is there more than elsewhere, particularly hard to penetrate.
An emotional path in Holt, Colorado
However, in Holt,Colorado, right in the heart of the United States something extraordinary is about to happen between the two widowers and neighbours Addie Moore and Louis Waters. Addie one day goes to Louis’ and, suddenly uttering few words, she amazingly reaches the centre of the maze.
“I wonder if you would consider coming to my house sometimes to sleepwithme.
I mean we’re both alone. We’ve been by ourselves for too long. For years. I’m lonely. I think you might be too. I wonder if you would come and sleep in the night with me. And talk”
All of the sudden Addie leads us where it is not common to go: beyond the ‘what will they think of me’, ‘what will they say’ and ‘what if one rejected me’. Then she accompanies us towards the ‘I would like to have a new chance’, ‘I would like to give space to my soul once more and I need your help’. She is indeed nervous at first but right after a few moments the dialogue starts developing so naturally to baffle, recording the development of an authentic relationship that reflects the pure joy of sharing.
Kent Haruf’s prose has been compared for its colloquial ease and transparency to Ernest Hemingway, however he stated that he admired immensely also William Faulkner whose prose is instead highly complex. This discrepancy indeed reveals the tension the book underlies: sounding out the contrasts of individual experience without losing faith in the tenderness of the encounter with the other. And this tendency is quite clear considering his relation with the characters of Addie and Louis.
The plain style and the dialogues characterised by the lack of quotation marks move the voice of the author close to that of his characters. They seem to be pictured with extreme consistency to their function: namely to represent the will and need to share oneself with someone else.
Often those simple things able to make us happy tent to hide behind apparently insuperable obstacles, in the most secret places of our mind where emotions had built high walls intersecting like a maze. In Holt though, this unknown space finds its natural dimension and presents itself to the reader in all its depth and beauty.
(From the book the film directed by Ritesh Batra with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda produced by Netflix in 2017)