“The End of the Garden”

Just because a story is discussed by the Deep Ones group over at LibraryThing or gets included in a gigantic collection called The Weird doesn’t mean it actually is.

This week’s subject of discussion is such a case.

Review: “The End of the Garden”, Michal Ajav, trans. James Naughton, 1991.

The story opens with our narrator hearing cries for help from a ground-floor window of a house in a city. He finds an attractive woman wrestling a Komodo dragon. 

Wrestling it off the woman, he realizes it’s the Komodo that’s been calling for help.

There is an amusing philosophical aside when the narrator recalls Hegel critizing Kant for his “categorical imperative” claiming a universal rule but not addressing specifics. Whom should he aid? Should it always be the human? Or the assaulted? 

The woman takes a book of the shelf, At the End of the Garden. It’s by the narrator. While the narrator has thought about writing a book, what type of book, and fantasized about the process of writing it, he hasn’t writte anything. The one sole idea in the story that might have been a germ for a weird story is when the narrator ponders

Do demons execute for us works we have dreamt of and never created? Do our hidden literary projects ripen in the dark depths of other people’s libraries? 

But answering that question or developing that idea is not what this story is about. 

When the narrator tries to read the book, words disappear off tits page. The illustrations don’t.  They feature a woman like the woman assaulting the Komodo and seem to depict the lizard and the woman in some adventure story and as enemies. 

Will the woman, who looks like a school teacher, criticize him for making friends with a lizard? 

The lizard gets up and opens an instrument case for a viola d’amore and plays it. 

The narrator and woman dance. The lizard’s smile turns to a “devilish leer”. The narrator feels protective towards the woman. 

There is a bit of a Mark Samuels-like scene where the woman begs the narrator to go off with her to a place without Komodo dragons who are now everywhere. Even her boss is one.

(Spoilers ahead) 

The dragon throws the instrument at the narrator and starts dancing with the woman. The narrator shatters the instrument over the lizard’s head. The walls of the room collapse to reveal a wide plain with a harbor in the background. The only building is a National Museum made entirely of glass. 

The lizard cowers behind the man. The woman says “It won’t do you a bit of good, being a protected species”. She walks towards the museum. 

The lizard bites into some rope hanging off the bed as the narrator sits on it. The lizards pulls the bed and sings a song. They come to the harbor town where the pair is enthusiastically greeted as they pass through on the way to the sea. 

At a pier, the dragon stops and curls up under the bed to sleep. In the morning, the lizard crawls on the bed and the narrator pulls the bed “in the direction of Prague”.  And that’s it. Not really very satisfying except the elements of humor. I have a vague notion that Eastern European surrealism, which I would call this, frequently uses talking animals in absurd situations, but I don’t really know.

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