"In all wars," opines the flickering image of Krumper to the baffled Company Salesman, "there's a moment when you wonder what you're firing at." Much the same could be said of reviewing the Spanish writer Ray Loriga's clever and engaging fourth novel, in which a nameless, faceless Company Salesman gradually disintegrates from sampling too much of the product.
He carries a suitcase full of drugs that excise memory, selling to clients in hotels, bars or airports anywhere in the world. His client might be an Arizona state witness seeking release from the burden of observing 93 executions, or an eccentric Parisian, addicted to toe-sucking and seeking to forget her own fetish.
The Salesman knows his wares, though, as he has been taking them with a fortifying diet of other pills: TT, white flashes, blue needles, cocaine and amphetamines, washed down with tequila, champagne and the inevitable beer. Occasionally, he starts the day with the delightfully named "good mornings", a miracle hangover cure.
Concerned about increasing absences in its Salesman's work diary, the Company suspends him after a routine drug test. The agent sent to relieve him, however, is murdered in Bangkok airport by a member of an American cult whose belief in the sanctity of guilt has caused him to knife three "memory murderers". The Salesman retrieves his suitcase and embarks on an illicit spree.
The absences quickly become lacunae in the Salesman's narrative, until he comes round in a Berlin mental hospital suffering from epileptic episodes, speech loss and "mnemonic anarchy". He notices, and instantly forgets; like conversing with an Alzheimer's patient, the smooth prose is skilfully irritating in its looping, inconsequential and yet mesmeric panoramas.
Doctors confirm self-inflicted neuronal damage akin to "someone who throws the engine overboard in order to travel more rapidly". This curious image touches the sense of foolhardy lightness that Loriga has artfully constructed around his Salesman's undirected hedonism. Home is the nearest minibar; family a wife who might be in Tokyo, or a sister who apparently killed herself but whom he can't remember. This drifting weightlessness is the corollary of tethered guilt, Loriga seems to suggest.
His stuporous Salesman remains an affable chap with an endearingly domestic turn of phrase: "A bit of calm and an extra beer are just right, when the future is uncertain and the past impossible." Elements of Tokyo Doesn't Love Us Anymore feel familiar from William Gibson's world, but the sheer vagueness of the Salesman's quest to piece his own identity together is at once a triumph of fragmented narrative and a counter-neurotic fable that hints at the hazards of losing one's emotional baggage.Reuse content