Comprising a novel Liberty’s Old Story and a novella A Transition to Nothingnesslinked by the chaos of events and impressions of the same narrator, himself a makeshift of contradictory sensations and conflicted impulses, Throw Away the Lights defies categorisation as the boundaries between fiction, memoir, travelogue and philosophy are corroded.
In a work which is by turns grotesque and beautiful, ornate and stark, sombre and grimly funny, aphoristic and poetic, Christopher Brownsword lays siege to many of humankind’s most cherished illusions while resigning himself to the uncomfortable truth that death is ultimately the only peace any of us shall find on this ‘burning astral wreckage’ we call Earth.
Whether drifting through Romania in the grip of a brutal fever or isolated in an unnamed coastal town as a result of unpredictable climate change, the narrator is brought more fiercely into contact with the ever collapsing societies and shifting landscapes that the human animal inhabits fleetingly and passes among like a phantom: ‘The vast populations of humans may suggest we’re destined for something greater or more meaningful,’ Brownsword writes in A Transition to Nothingness, ‘but this is conceit and delusion…We lack even the comfort of considering ourselves a means to some evolutionary end, since evolution has no end, therefore no greater or higher function. Existence is rubble and debris flung this way and that in the storm.’
The result is both haunting and bracing, a work that gives up looking inwards at the human debacle and instead turns without to the strange and unknowable reality beyond us.