Far North by Marcel Theroux
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2009
Borrowed from the library.
Marcel Theroux is a novelist, TV broadcaster and the oldest son of travel writer and novelist Paul Theroux. This is his fourth novel.
Far North is a dystopian novel set in the not-to-distant future. The narrator, Makepeace, is the last surviving member of a community of Quakers who originally came from the United States and settled in the Siberian taiga.
My parents never spoke of the past, and me, I never took much interest in it. The past had nothing to teach me. The beginning of the world and my birth seemed like the same event. For me the world began with water dripping off wet sheets in the sunlight. I was the creator, blinking my eyes to make night and day. And I was Noah, arranging my chipped hardwood animals in the dust of the arctic summer. I taught my family language, and I was the first human to set foot in the wilderness at the bottom of our vegetable patch. From page 105.
Makepeace finds evidence that other communities may exist, and even thrive, out beyond the city’s ruins. A refugee emerges from the forest, inspiring Makepeace to open up to human connection and to travel from the city to search for others in the Far North. It is a empty and eerie place.
I lay down to sleep thinking that as much as I missed what was gone, maybe this was the best thing: for the world to lie fallow for a couple hundred years or more, for the rain to was her clean. We’d become another layer of her history, a little higher in the soil than the Romans, and the people that built the pyramids. Yes Makepeace, I thought, one day your mandible will show up under glass in a museum…
In the long run, the waters recede, the sun rises, and the plants grow. I’ve never doubted that something will survive of us. Of course, I won’t make it. And all those books I’ve saved will end up mulch and bird’s nest, I suppose. From pages 198/199.
This beautiful, spare novel is filled with surprises. The story twists and turns like a braided river, and Makepeace travels on with humor and rugged strength to find a kind of redemption. The world is wild and desolate and yet filled with quiet beauty. Theroux is a master storyteller. I plan on reading his other novels.