Among the novels that went somewhat unnoticed in the last months of last year and deserved better luck in our bookstores is ‘Leave the world behind’ (Salamander / Column), a hypnotic and addictive fable with not a few echoes of the distressing current situation, with which the American of Bangladeshi origin Rumaan Alam has achieved success in his country that has led him directly to the film adaptation with Julia Roberts Y Mahershala Ali as protagonists and Netflix production. It will be shot this year but the novel, which former President Obama included in his annual reading list, is available to the reader.
Once again it is time to say that writers are the canaries in the mine of reality, the first to perceive that misfortune is about to fall. That is why ‘Leaving the world behind’, written before this health crisis was triggered, offers many keys to the pandemic world in which we find ourselves through a minimalist and somewhat claustrophobic plot. Thus, a couple and their teenage children who have rented a house for their vacations in a remote place in the mountains see how the owners arrive unexpectedly to take refuge there from New York because, finally, there has been a the dreaded great blackout –a recurring theme in the latest American narrative as evidenced by the recent ‘The Silence’ by Don DeLillo- that leave the internet, television, radio and telephones inactive and in turn activate our worst nightmares.
A fear that must be faced
Alam attends via zoom from a house near New York, where she spends a few days with her husband and children, which any reader could imagine as the model of the one in her novel. But no, when he wrote the book he didn’t know her. It’s just a good place to get away from the pandemic urban overwhelm. Lucky for him, all of his electrical connections are working, in the building. “The fear of the great blackout, of total disconnection, is much more than a hoax that has traveled through social networks, it is systemic to our current way of life and that is why it is natural that it permeates the literary works that are written today. If the big blackout occurs, we believe that it will be the end for us, but that is not true, it is a possibility that we must contemplate & rdquor ;.
With the six characters locked in the house, strange phenomena begin to happen around them: deafening noises and animals that begin to migrate in an environment of strangeness. And one more, no less interesting matter: the tenants are middle class and white, while the owners are elite and black. so a buried race confrontation moves to the foreground hiding the real problems. “I wanted to play with a certain ambiguity that would put the reader in the same situation as my white protagonist who sees an unknown black couple arrive at midnight and is instantly on guard. She is a white middle-class woman who thinks she is very progressive but in reality she has been bombarded with subliminal racist messages all her life and the first thing she does is distrust: she wanted the reader to feel the same as her, to later repent and also ask questions. It is complex to transform those perverse prejudices at a stroke & rdquor ;. A family man, Alam puts all his hopes in young people: “They are the ones who give me hope because they are very clear that the apocalypse is something that can be avoided by being respectful of nature”.