Zeitgeist Reviews: Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist
The analysis will focus on Lindqvist's Handling the Undead (Hanteringen av Initially, the relevance of the concept of the uncanny in relation to an .. of the dead occurs in August at the end of a long-lasting heat wave, and. There are many ways to define a "dead-end" relationship. better themselves, you may be dealing with someone who's emotionally immature. Forget going into business with someone, promising your bestie you'll be friends forever, and even (if you can) forget the fact you signed a.
Do you take in your recently deceased father who stumbles back home and try to care for him? And what about the dead who have already been buried? Do you dig them up and save them from the confusion of waking up underground?
How exactly do you handle the undead? It is August in Stockholm, Sweden. One day the citizens in and around the area of Stockholm begin to experience strange phenomenon: All over the city, fat white worms fall from the sky and burrow into graves, presumably bringing the dead back to life although this is never fully explained.
The dead awaken, and they want one thing: The story alternates among three groups of characters and their individual experiences. His grief for his grandson Elias is still fresh Elias died from a fall off a balcony while trying to catch a ladybug. Mahler realizes early on what is happening, and goes to the cemetery where Elias is buried, digs him up, and brings him home.
Significantly, it also suggests death and depression as inspiration for comedy. As indicated above, the ecological discourse of Handling the Undead is made visible by how the novel deals with the topic of weather: A fictional transcript of the TV morning news the day after the incident ends ironically in this respect. Present in the studio are representatives from three different areas: Our time is almost up. If I had an opinion on that subject I would keep it to myself. Sten Bergwall [head physician at Danderyd hospital]?
Runo Sahlin [PhD in Parapsychology]? A mistake has occurred. Something has gone wrong that has…interrupted the normal order. Now for the weather. Lindqvist a, None of the experts can give a concrete answer on the question of what has caused the awakening of the dead, but the text itself indicates that the weather might have something to do with it. The heavy rain of the thunderstorm that follows the day after the awakening illustrates the significance of water as a life-giving resource.
This thematic strand is also present in the story of the reliving six-year-old boy Elias and how he is taken care of by his grandfather Mahler. As indicated above, the novel elaborates extensively on how Mahler takes care of the body of his grandson. All the procedures involve water or moisture: Mahler has a vision, described as a sudden flash of insight impossible to express in a comprehensible way. It comes to him when he compares the body of Elias to the surrounding landscape, now damp and nourished from the rain: When he stepped out onto the patio the air was new.
During the long drought he had forgotten that the air could feel so rich, so much like nourishment. The darkness was dense and filled with scents from a landscape that the downpour had restored to life.
Elias had been dead and withered. Something that was not rain had brought him back to life. And what was keeping him alive if he was empty inside? A seed can lie dormant for hundreds and thousands of years. Dried or frozen in a glacier. Place it in moist earth and it sprouts. There is a power.
Handling the Undead
The green force of the flower. What is the power of the human being? In a rapid succession of images he saw a blade of grass break through the seed casing and struggle toward the surface, saw a sunflower strive toward the sky, turning to the light, saw a small child pull itself to its feet, hold its arms out, jubilant, and everything lives and is drawn to the light, and he saw… It is not inevitable.
Everything is effort, work. It can be taken from us. It can be given back. The vision, resembling a tacky ad for cereals, or the styled and manipulated version of Nature-with-a-capital-N broadcast on TV channels such as Nat Geo Wild, does not give him an answer to his question.
And the sprouting seed, thousands of years old, that we can describe scientifically, is in a way as big and uncanny a mystery as dead people coming back to life. It is noteworthy that the stylistic device used to describe the vision is that of time-lapse photography, which disturbs the normal perception of processes by accelerating time, and can thus be regarded as another means of revealing the uncanniness of the seemingly natural.
To begin with, two of the main characters, the teenage-girl Flora and her grandmother Elvy, share the ability to read minds. Their special gift has made them self-destructive and depressed, because they know too much — and their image of the true nature of humanity is not positive. However, during the course of narration, the motif of telepathy expands and becomes a general phenomenon, since a strange effect of the dead coming back to life is that being around them enables mind-reading.
The sensation is described as almost unbearable; the staff at the hospitals and the military dealing with the reliving experience psychological breakdowns and have to be replaced continuously. David, the stand-up comedian, compares the situation at the hospital, where the dead have been gathered in great numbers into a small space, with his own experience of telepathy as he visits his wife at the residential area to which the reliving has been moved: Now he understood why the situation at the hospital had been untenable.
Here, the thoughts of others were mostly fainter, a background murmur of voices, images. After ten minutes of aimless wandering he started to identify his own consciousness in the hubbub. But when the reliving had been closer together it must have been almost impossible. The use of telepathy can be regarded as part of the aesthetics of the uncanny, as a painful revelation of that which should have remained a secret, but also as a blurring of boundaries between the self and the other.
Telepathy is a recurrent motif in the fiction of Lindqvist. In Let the Right One In, kissing the vampire enables the protagonist to read his mind, and to look into his past to understand the tragic circumstances of his transformation. In Handling the Undead, the intermingling of psyches is not restricted to humans, dead or alive: David even gets the unique privilege of glimpsing the consciousness of a rabbit.
It is described as a soothing and comforting experience, compared to the chaos of anxiety, aggression and panic detectable in the minds of humans.
Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Thus, telepathy here makes it possible to bridge the gap not only between the living and the reliving people, but also between human and animal, suggesting that there is no real gap. We become aware that we are all equally strange strangers. In the novel Harbour, we find a vision that, in a similar way, can be interpreted as charged with environmental significance.
Like in Handling the Undead, the reader is haunted by a nagging suspicion that the horrifying and supernatural events of the plot are provoked by environmental destruction. An ancient pact, established between the people of the archipelago where the novel is set and the ocean, has made their society prosperous, but it is based on human sacrifice, and reveals the greediness and materialism of humankind.
In present times, something has gone wrong and the ocean has become disturbed and damaged. A character, by way of magic, is able to perceive the water flowing in everything that surrounds him, and he is also capable of sensing that there is something wrong with the ocean: The morning dew was shining on the grass and he felt as if he could see every single drop, could touch every single drop with his thoughts.
In the trunk of the trees he could see the hidden vessels, the water being sucked up by the capillary action, out into the thin veins in the leaves. The moisture in the earth and how it was constituted.
The rainwater in the barrel, a living body wrapped around dead insects and old leaves. Through the lawn he saw the underground veins run through the bedrock. And he saw how everything that lived and was green or yellow or red… how it consisted almost entirely of water. He carried on down towards the jetty and he saw the sea. Lindqvist b, This unlimited perception is described as not suitable for a human being.
It is too painful and strong to be able to grasp the big picture, the revelation of what has been hidden. He becomes a stranger to nature and feels nothing but emptiness: Thus, at one level, Harbour can be understood as expressing a dichotomy between a limited and a limitless space: If we are walking around in a forest, a meadow or a town, we see our surroundings as being made up of individual elements.
There are this many different kinds of trees in varying sizes, those buildings, these streets. The meadow, the flowers, the bushes.
- “Handling the Undead” by John Ajvide Lindqvist (Thomas Dunne Books, 2010)
- HANDLING THE UNDEAD by John Ajvide Lindqvist – Review
- This novel provides examples of:
Our gaze lingers on details, and if we are standing in a forest in the autumn, we become tongue-tied if we try to describe the richness around us. All this exists on land. The sea is something completely different.
Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist (5 star ratings)
The sea is one. The musing on the polarization between the limited and systematic on the one hand, and the limitless and uncontrollable on the other, can be related to an anxiety that in many ways is discernible in the fiction of Lindqvist.
It has to do with an incapacity, or unwillingness, to grasp the complexity of the surrounding environment, but also with the inability of both our senses and our rigid systems to measure it. Through their visions and telepathic experiences, the characters of Handling the Undead and Harbour become aware of something that has been hidden, a sudden glimpse into a complicated web of relations — between the living and the non-living, the human and non-human, and between all the components of environment, and when it is revealed to them it seems terrifying and difficult to endure.
On the one hand a quite nostalgic version of Nature as pristine and separated from humanity is detectable in his narratives, but on the other hand, as has been demonstrated, the visionary, telepathic gaze allows us to take part of a much more complex world of strange connections.
But despite the fact that dark humour is one of his trademarks, his fiction has, above all, a genuinely sad and depressive feeling to it; the comic aspects rather enhance the melancholic atmosphere, since they convey a sense of dark irony. Melancholy is important from an ecological perspective. But the metaphor can be turned around to suggest that ecological crisis, real irreparable damage to the environment to the point where it may no longer be able to support human life, affects us with a collective melancholia because the destruction of the human species is a strictly ungrievable event.
Juliette, the depressed protagonist of Melancholia, welcomes the end of the world, and the same goes for the telepathic teenager Flora in Handling the Undead. When her grandmother interprets the course of events as the apocalypse, it does not frighten her; on the contrary, she looks forward to it: Ironically, one of the few things that can put her mind at rest is playing the zombie survival video game Resident Evil, while her DVD copy of the romantic feel-good film Pretty Woman is just an empty cover, a hiding place for the razor blades she uses to cut herself.
Flora also represents the most outspoken critical voice of the novel. Her critique is directed towards the consumerist culture and hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie represented by her parents, trying to bribe their children with the rustle of shopping bags and nostalgically singing the proletarian songs of their radical s at their fancy parties. Listening to her parents singing she realizes something: To conclude, death is certainly at the kernel of this discourse.
Freud considered death to be perhaps the strongest topic of the uncanny, and he points out that our thinking and feeling on the subject might still be considered primitive: Many people experience the feeling [of the uncanny] in the highest degree in relation to death and dead bodies, to the return of the dead [ FreudWe all rationally know that death excludes no one, that is, but we still cannot cope with the fact of our own death.
Freud refers only to the individual death in his essay but it is also possible to apply his thoughts on a more general level death of planet Earthmuch the same as he himself speaks of the return of the repressed on both the ontogenetic and phylogenetic level. We know about the environmental crisis; most of us have not repressed its existence. However, like with our own death, it is something we are aware of, but still have a tendency to deny or repress, and we cannot grasp it in its entire meaning.
In an interview, Lindqvist tried to explain what his writing is ultimately about: The fear of things that in the long run lead to our extinction. It is difficult not to read this statement in the light of the argument above, of the environmental crisis as the one fundamental aspect of modern-day life that it is impossible to cope with in any rational way. This is why we need the Gothic horror stories to transform it into fiction. Gothic Studies 16 1: An Infantile Neurosis and Other Works, — Documents on Contemporary Art, edited by Gilda Williams.
Ecology and Contemporary Nordic Cinemas. From Nation-Building to Ecocosmopolitanism.