Suddenly the Minotaur

By Marc Kokinski

A review of Suddenly The Minotaur by Marie Helene Poitras

Published on May 1, 2007

Suddenly The Minotaur
Marie Helene Poitras

DC Books
$18.95
paper
152pp
978-1-897190-16-6

Suddenly the Minotaur, winner of the 2003 Prix Anne-Hébert in its original French-language edition, is an exploration of the two sides of the monstrous couple created by a rape.

Neatly divided in two sections as similar but opposed as the two sides of a coin, the book consists of the pairing of soliloquies by the attacker and his victim. The first part is told by Mino Torrès, a peasant’s son from Guatemala locked in a segregated wing of a penitentiary; he dreams, vents his spleen, and remembers episodes of his life as a serial rapist, first in his native country and then in Montreal. Among his prey, only the young literature student Ariane resisted him, and has thus become central to his fantasies. Ariane’s recollection of their violent encounter, its aftermath, and her subsequent journey through Germany makes up the second part.
This novel achieves the dubious feat of making the reader dislike its victim as much as, if not more than, its poor man’s version of a Bret Easton Ellis psychopath. At first readers want to be oblivious to Ariane’s coldness and lack of compassion toward fellow sufferers but, as her metaphorical journey towards self-discovery develops, it is impossible not to be appalled by the political and racial overtones of her historical musings and identification with Nazi Germany.

This is especially disturbing because, beyond the deceptiveness of its double first-person account, readers have the right to wonder whose voice we are really hearing in this novel. When a story is told by one solipsist, the whole of it becomes a part of that specific solipsist’s strategies toward the reader. This is not at all the case in a story told by two solipsists, where both strategies point to a wider scheming by a know-it-all puppet-master who then has to answer for the whole of it. mRb

Marc Kokinski is currently working on a series of graphic poems relating to the various meanings of letters and literary figures such as Nabokov.

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