A hole could help us be whole

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - READS -

you think you are, you will find it hard to re­sist play­ing peek-a-boo. In the story, the hole first ap­pears in the wall of a flat. Some­one is mov­ing in. He strug­gles with boxes of books and kitchen things. He cooks a meal. He then sits down to eat and ... that’s when he notices the hole!

As it turns out, this is no or­di­nary hole. It has a life of its own. It is a slip­pery, play­ful thing that darts about, and teases and hides. The ac­tual hole in the book is of course fixed, in the mid­dle of the page, but Torseter’s il­lus­tra­tions ac­com­mo­date it and, with changes in per­spec­tive, the hole ap­pears to be on the move, or per­haps on the run. What do you do with a hole like that? You trap it in a box and turn it into the au­thor­i­ties of course.

I didn’t ex­pect a box to hold the hole. I thought it might cre­ate its own es­cape route, but this hole ap­pears to be whole. It is some­thing – solid at least in con­cept if not in ac­tu­al­ity.

Once the hole is con­tained in its box, the die-cut hole in the book is free to take on other roles. Then we see its ver­sa­til­ity as the il­lus­tra­tor in­cor­po­rates it in his street scenes – as a whistling mouth, a traf­fic light, an eye, the let­ter “o”, a bal­loon, a head­lamp, a nos­tril, a cam­era lens, the moon and so on.

And what of the wily, lively hole? It is taken, in its box, to a lab, where it is ex­am­ined and tested. There are no con­clu­sive re­sults. The hole is shut away in a drawer and the flat-owner re­turns to his flat, hole­less and so, pre­sum­ably, whole. The fi­nal pages see him set­tling into his new home, en­joy­ing the moon­lit evening with a cup of tea, go­ing to bed. Pay at­ten­tion ... the hole reap­pears ... but what of it?

What is a hole? Is it a void? Is it empti­ness? Or is it a win­dow? A nest? A hole can be deep and dark. You may fall in it and be swal­lowed whole by un­cer­tainty, you may drown in the un­known. But a hole can also be space. It can be room to grow. It can be a fa­mil­iar cubby hole. It can let in the light. A hole may help us be whole.

Daphne Lee is a writer, ed­i­tor, book re­viewer and teacher. She runs a Face­book group called The Places You Will Go for lovers of all kinds of lit­er­a­ture. Write to her at star2@thes­tar.com. my.

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