Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman

To begin, I must state that this book was indeed one of the strangest I've ever read. I'm still having trouble figuring out not only the plot, but the overall style as well. There are so many different themes (feminism, sexuality, colonialism, etc.) intertwined with theories like modernism and post-modernism that, unfortunately, make me think that I'm only at surface-level with this work, and that there is a much deeper current I'm unable to reach.

All that being said, the most intriguing aspect of the book for me was Desiderio's pent-up passion in the beginning of the novel, and whether it is further repressed or, instead, released through his encounters in the peep show.

Desiderio recalls, "I was an exceedingly romantic young man yet, until that time, circumstances had never presented me with a sufficiently grand opportunity to exercise my pent-up passion. I had opted for the chill restraints of formalism only out of sharp necessity. That, you see, was why I was so bored" (41). The first time he experiences the peep-show, Desiderio says that he sees a representation of the Prime Minister's penis in one slide and the face of Dr. Hoffman's ambassador in the other. I wonder if this points to an underlying homosexual impulse in Desiderio, that perhaps when in the state of arousal he fantasizes about men he is familiar with. Certainly, the notion of Desiderio being purely homosexual is strongly challenged by his later relationship with women in the novel, notably the very young Indian girl on the river, and of course, with Albertina. Yet the inclusion and mention of phallic symbols which appear throughout the novel, and the fact that Desiderio IS the one telling the story, make me believe that it is at least credible to believe that perhaps there is some sort of homoerotic tendency within him. I don't think I personally believe this, but after finishing the novel, it was really the first aspect I thought about.

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