He has no gender or age, not even a name, does not remember his origins and the color of his skin changes according to the observer. The enigmatic protagonist of You can tell me, the fourth novel (published by SUR in a world preview) by Catherine Lacey – 34-year-old author from Tupelo, Mississippi – is the ideal mirror for reading the creative chaos of the present and, on the contrary, our need to lock up the other and ourselves in a cold cage of definitions. The opacity, the mutism that the protagonist opposes to the questions about her identity that are addressed to her by the religious community of the American village from which she is welcomed, is the refusal to respond to the social expectations of a time when everything it must be transparent. Bench, this is how the strange being probably fifteen appeared suddenly, asleep on the bench of a church, is baptized and experiences firsthand the recent speeches on gender, sexuality, race and identity, relaunching them in a new territory. And forcing protagonists and readers to no longer consider the image of human beings but their essence, the inner rock that lies beyond the body.
Among the most original new entries in literature, loved by critics of Granta, New Yorker is New York Times, already with the previous one The answersCatherine Lacey had described our being held hostage by the judgment of others, consumed by the pursuit of standards that make us acceptable. With Bench (Pew in the original title), goes further: it addresses the difficulty of people being associated with their body by the demands of society. In its immense silence, Panca explores a reality that has become uncertain, it is the Robinson of a contemporary fairy tale that goes beyond no gender. In an era where there is always an artificial light aimed at us, the desire to disappear to find in the darkness, in ambivalence a place of freedom and equality is a subversive message. Instead, it will be the religious community in which it will live, and which haunts Panca with questions and tests to discover its identity, to say that we are unable to welcome those who do not have a recognizable nature or similar to us: we are all different from close up, as he tells us. 'author.
The cover of the new novel.
The family that welcomes Panca, the neighbors, the priest, the doctors constantly ask: what are you? More than a question, it seems an aggression. Why?
It is a question that describes the present, in which we must know everything about whom we meet, before deciding how to behave. On a large scale, we see it at the immigration office, when we change countries and where a word or silence is enough to trigger the alarm. Or on the Net, where any term or image that does not conform to the requests risks provoking bad reactions. We are under constant observation and it is a mechanism that does not stop. In our own small way, everyone happens to know someone at a party and decide what to do with him only after his answers to some of our questions. If it happens to us, we think it's not serious. Instead it is the same.
Is the novel a critique of the society of images?
Panca tries to exist and that's all and thus shows how others value only the visible surface. By not answering, it puts them in difficulty, laying bare their fears towards those who are different or worse, indescribable: they have no control over her – I myself find it hard to say he or she, constantly changing. They are not racists or misogynists. However, they cannot accept that they do not have a precise idea about a person.
Opening: Catherine Lacey was born in Tupelo on April 9, 1985, studying creative nonfiction at Columbia University. In 2007 the magazine “Granta” calls her “one of the best young American writers”.