The Anthropos-Spectre-Beast, by Tadeusz Konwickion August 19th, 2012
Now, you don’t need me to tell you that The Anthropos-Spectre-Beast is a pretty weird novel, but all the same, let’s try a precis of the plot:
A boy, Peter, lives with his family in Warsaw; a meteorite (or perhaps asteroid) is expected to hit the Earth soon and wipe out all human life; a talking dog befriends the boy and takes him to another dimension, where he has to rescue a girl from a boy who looks like himself; after his father loses his job, he gets a part with a film company playing a spaceman.
So much for the plot.
Now, if this were a set-book I was studying in class, the obvious question to pose would be: What, then, is the Anthropos-Spectre-Beast?, and I would probably grope around ineffectually trying to write an essay to answer it. Perhaps I would get a good mark for my essay too (I often used to). But the truth of the matter is, I’ve not really got much of an idea – possibly because I don’t read books any longer for the sake of answering such questions – or, indeed, for the sake of writing anything (worthwhile or otherwise) about them – but also because the idea of the Anthropos-Spectre-Beast seems about as abstract and abstruse as the ideas one finds in a lot of modern philosophy – so much so that one is inclined to believe the writer is, in fact, quite vague about its meaning also – which, to be fair, the narrator of the book somewhat admits to.
No, I’ve not idea of the meaning of this book, or indeed much of the point of the plot, which in truth goes nowhere – nor how the worlds of the two dimensions fit together – though, of course, there are naturally a lot of crossovers. Yet, on the other hand, it’s a very entertaining book. The characters – the narrator boy in particular – maintains a pleasing Gogolian indifference to strange, dreamlike events . I liked the book’s humour. Here is a line from the book which I liked (perhaps you had to read it in context):
At that moment Buffalo’s parents passed by, laden with huge string bags stuffed with provisions. His mother had a dogged, resentful look on her face, which was not surprising.
Then, “Do you hear?” she said angrily to her husband. “The dog is speaking to that boy in a human voice.”
“Have you nothing more important to worry about?” said Buffalo’s father dispiritedly.
Having not heard of Konwicki until I was researching my East European project, naturally I walked into a secondhand bookshop today and found another of his books. This book (A Minor Apocalypse) curiously claims, in its listing of the author’s other available works, that The Anthropos-Spectre-Beast is for “Young Readers”. I can only think it is because it has a child-narrator.
I was also reading Madame by Antoni Libera, but gave after 100 pages since the author seemed to have made some bad choices around the plot. (The first 5 pages or so are worth reading though, if you come across it in a shop).