THE PARADE By Dave Eggers
Place, Eudora Welty wrote, is where an author’s quest for truth starts. A novel doesn’t “begin to glow,” Welty claimed, until its setting comes to be “accepted as true.” For authors inclined to rebel against this kind of dictum, withholding the particulars of a place can be a way to pursue a different kind of truth, less about conjuring place than about conjuring patterns in human failure found all over.
Dave Eggers embarks on that alternative quest in his eighth novel, “The Parade.” In an unnamed country, two unnamed employees of a foreign road-building corporation arrive for a 12-day assignment. In time for a planned national parade, they must pave a road extending from the rural south to the urban north of a nation “awake and alive after a civil war its residents assumed would have no end.” To avoid the men being ransomed or killed, the company advises them to withhold their names and nationalities not only from civilians but from each other.
In lieu of names, the men reduce themselves to numbers: “Four” for the man who will run the paving machine and “Nine” for his wily assistant. Readers, too, are shut out of any background information on either man, an authorial choice that generates a subtle tension throughout the novel. Without the usual biographical hints tucked into conversations and internal thoughts, Eggers differentiates between Four and Nine solely through their reactions to the post-civil-war devastation around them.
How this setup reduces the two men to their willingness — or refusal — to see others is striking. Four’s rote reiterations of company policy establish him as the strict protocol man. He expresses more emotion about the efficiency of the new machine he will be driving than about the legless men on the roadside or the teenagers “carrying unloaded AKs” like some kind of school gear. Four dismisses all the despair around him as “standard for a developing country after a war.”
By contrast, his assistant, Nine, is all debauchery — a party boy on the prowl for easy sex among the “million displaced” and “ten thousand orphans.” Each time Four reminds Nine about the need to complete the road quickly per government order, Nine talks about sex, or about the fresh eggs he bought “that taste like life,” unlike the inedible nutrition bars their company stocks for them in the paving machine.
Even when an escalating crisis obliges Four to leave the safety of his tanker-style paving machine and depend on the good will of several local men, his internal thoughts undergo little change. No release occurs in the word choice or in the syntax that might signal the increasing complexity of Four’s interactions with the people around him. When a local commander says he hasn’t heard about any government parade on the new road, Four’s reaction is to “pause.”
In the next line, Eggers writes that Four “had assumed the parade was a national event of historic significance, something on par with an election or inauguration. But the fact that this commander knew nothing about it made him reconsider.” If Four’s impulse to “reconsider” leads to a growing sense of unease, it doesn’t manifest in the unchanged tone of the sentences that follow. To forgo any specific thoughts here about the new government is consistent with the allegorical realm Eggers capably constructs in the novel. But a few unexpected shifts in tone or syntax in a scene like this might have helped point, subtly, to the inner conflicts Four is beginning to experience.
The Portuguese novelist Gonçalo Tavares, who has written a number of fascinating parable-like novels set in unnamed cities, created a term for sentences that veer in unexpected directions or dare an unexpected shift in syntax. He calls them “wolf sentences” for their ability to startle both the author and the reader and for the untamed vitality such lines can add to a scene.
Readers attentive to wolf sentences may not find many in “The Parade,” but the final scene of the novel contains such ferocity that it offers good reason for all the tame language that precedes it.B:
【阳】【光】【大】【盛】，【坐】【在】【院】【子】【中】，【孔】【捕】【的】【脑】【袋】【中】【有】【阵】【阵】【刺】【痛】【袭】【来】。 【昨】【夜】【他】【数】【次】【从】【冥】【想】【状】【态】【中】【强】【行】【挣】【脱】【出】【来】，【拢】【共】【大】【约】【修】【习】【冥】【想】【法】【一】【个】【时】【辰】【的】【时】【间】。 【这】【些】【许】【的】【头】【痛】，【也】【算】【是】【小】【小】【的】【后】【遗】【症】【吧】。 【但】【相】【比】【于】【收】【获】，【这】【微】【弱】【的】【疼】【痛】【根】【本】【不】【算】【什】【么】，【修】【习】【冥】【想】【法】【期】【间】【所】【遭】【遇】【的】【凶】【险】【也】【是】【十】【分】【值】【当】。 【仅】【是】【修】【行】【了】【些】【许】【时】【间】，【孔】
【展】【天】【鹏】【冷】【冷】【看】【着】【陈】【宇】，【那】【双】【眼】【睛】，【似】【要】【把】【陈】【宇】【吞】【噬】【了】【一】【般】。 【只】【见】，【展】【天】【鹏】【身】【上】，【全】【身】【上】【下】，【皆】【是】【伤】【痕】。 【而】【这】【些】【伤】【痕】，【竟】【然】【是】【他】【自】【己】【剑】【气】【割】【裂】【的】。 【这】【种】【带】【有】【玄】【力】【的】【剑】【伤】，【根】【本】【不】【是】【一】【时】【半】【会】【可】【以】【恢】【复】【的】，【哪】【怕】【有】【四】【品】【恢】【复】【仙】【丹】【也】【是】【不】【行】。 “【你】……【你】【竟】【然】【会】【使】【用】【禁】【忌】！” 【展】【天】【鹏】【指】【着】【陈】【宇】，【一】【脸】【怨】【恨】2017年东方心经图“【什】【么】【人】【竟】【然】【如】【此】【大】【胆】……“ “【要】【给】【她】【点】【颜】【色】【瞧】【瞧】。“”……“【一】【时】【间】，【诸】【如】【此】【类】【的】【话】【络】【绎】【不】【绝】，【元】【一】【也】【不】【甚】【在】【意】，【她】【对】【着】【主】【持】【人】【说】【到】：”【如】【何】，【不】【行】【吗】？“ 【中】【年】【人】【这】【才】【答】【道】：“【当】【然】……【当】【然】【可】【以】。“ 【在】【接】【下】【来】【的】【时】【辰】【里】，【看】【台】【上】【的】【人】【更】【是】【一】【时】【也】【不】【转】【移】【眼】【睛】【地】【看】【着】【台】【上】【女】【人】【的】【招】【式】，【她】【的】【招】【式】【实】【在】【是】【太】
“【给】【你】【点】【时】【间】，【调】【整】【下】。” 【景】【东】【逗】【着】【她】，【目】【光】【深】【幽】【的】【看】【着】【她】。 【子】【琦】【撅】【了】【撅】【嘴】，【大】【声】【道】，“【我】【不】【用】，【快】【进】【去】【吧】，【大】【家】【等】【你】【呢】！” 【景】【东】【轻】【笑】【了】【下】，【驱】【动】【车】【子】【往】【门】【口】【开】【去】，“【大】【家】【是】【在】【等】【你】。” 【果】【不】【其】【然】，【一】【进】【门】，【景】【东】【就】【看】【见】【大】【家】【伙】【列】【队】【两】【边】，【欢】【迎】【他】【们】【进】【来】。 “【欢】【迎】，【欢】【迎】，【热】【烈】【欢】【迎】！” “【欢】
【步】【六】【孤】【自】【从】【见】【过】【什】【么】【都】【能】【卖】【之】【后】，【就】【很】【少】【出】【门】【了】，【一】【般】【都】【在】【家】【里】【宅】……【养】【伤】。【伤】【势】【恢】【复】【的】【很】【慢】，【像】【宋】【书】【航】【拼】【命】【蹭】【白】【尊】【者】【运】【气】【得】【到】【的】【那】【些】【宝】【贝】【对】【他】【也】【没】【什】【么】【用】。 【这】【么】【想】【着】，【步】【六】【孤】【张】【口】【咬】【了】【一】【口】【宋】【书】【航】【和】【白】【尊】【者】【在】【外】【捡】【到】【的】【灵】【果】，【哎】【哟】，【真】【香】。【现】【在】【他】【的】【伤】【势】【是】【已】【经】【稳】【定】【下】【来】【了】。 【如】【今】【要】【做】【的】【就】【是】【等】【待】【而】【已】，【等】【着】