Close your eyes, Imagine an old hotel jutting out, almost into the sea, like the prow of an ancient ship. Now imagine the individuals that reside there - a painter named Michel Plasson, who uses sea water to paint the sea, creating beautiful all-white canvases, Professor Bartleboom, who wants to know precisely where the sea ends for the encyclopaedia he's compiling on Limits. Whilst at the same time he writes passionate love letters to a woman he hasn't met yet, there's also a woman named Ann Deveria, thinking of her husband and her lover, as she roams the shore. Then we meet Ellissin, a lovely young princess (an ethereal beauty), whose father has sent her here to cure her of some mysterious malady. Now to add an ominous note, which we will do in the form of a former seaman named Adams, who quietly nurses a sense of vengeance & who is the most enigmatic and darkest of the guests. Eyes still shut ? To run this Inn which we will call the Almayer (possibly a nod in the direction of Joseph Conrad) how about a group of enchanted children, one of whom seems to have the ability to read or create dreams. Scene is now set, so we can send them out into their world and then follow the stories as they unfold.
We can shadow Bartleboom & his mahogany box of love letters, as he falls in love at first sight with this women, only to discover that she's a twin and he's not sure which he first saw. A really comic tale ensues as he bounces from one to the other, never sure which is his first love. Or we can learn of the catalogue that the professor compiled, of the work of his friend, Plasson (the artist) "Completely white ... Completely white ... Completely white".
Then we follow the awful nightmare, of not only being shipwrecked & cast adrift on a raft, but having to fight for your survival. Whilst, all around you, your fellow castaways are either murdering each other or being killed, you see your newly wed bride killed, leaving you with nothing left but the urge, no, imperative to survive long enough to avenge her death.
This book is a puzzling magical story. Steeped in mythmaking & whimsy and it's at the junction of this seeming contrast that "Ocean Sea" shows us it's magic and like all magic, there is a dark side, the shadows and nightmares that make us hold on for the light. Also the sea itself, is very much a character here (as unbound nature), indifferent to man’s reason and aspiration.
Like the uncharted nature of a dream, this book casts up disparate images for you to fathom. Flotsam and jetsam washed ashore, then rearranged as fable, or as a collection of impressions in search of a dream, a nightmare, a home.
Translated by - Alastair McEwen.
Alessandro Baricco (Wikipedia)
Almayers folly (Joseph Conrad)