A novel in one sentence?
If I absolutely had to describe the novel in one sentence, it might be something like this: Disillusioned young husband struggles to save marriage and sanity after getting involved with cheerful, albeit increasingly erratic and mystifying, middle-aged woman he meets at work.
There’s more, of course. Mr. Galaxy’s Unfinished Dream is also a tricky love story in which the protagonist/narrator, Lucas Amado, impulsively wades into the deep waters of love and marriage and begins to drown. Each time he comes up for air he chokes on new impediments to happiness—unreasonable expectations, rejection, temptation, guilt, fear, loss, and loneliness.
At one point, overcome with regret and longing, Lucas reflects, “If life were solely a matter of words and kisses and believing that a woman’s mouth is a sanctuary that offers life to the fullest, then all the bleeding would matter little.”
Even as he discovers that life is more than words and kisses, Lucas gets a clear, sobering glimpse of love, that gorgeous tyrant that teases the lover’s capacity to persevere and endure, and that demands suffering beyond ordinary pain and sorrow.
The novel is also about the challenges presented by distance, not only geographical distance (events unfold in three different countries), but also the distance between the tormented breathless Lucas and an unknown Lucas he begins to suspect must exist and whom he must become.
In Lucas’s world, there is a fuzziness to existence.
A kind of fog that comes and goes, a random blurring of things, when who he is and where he is become a matter of private conjecture, and when what he believes and doesn’t believe are often indistinguishable. The condition is not unique to Lucas.
The Spanish playwright, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, wrote, For all life is a dream, and dreams themselves are only dreams. What are we to make of this?
Here’s my interpretation of Calderón’s words: reality is richer, deeper, wider and longer than some of us may think. It is multi-layered, prismatic, an endless series of mirrors within mirrors where the same object is perceived in countless variations.
Reality can’t be separated from dream inasmuch as dream is a component of reality. A person’s unseen dreams, thoughts, imagination, emotions, memories, and desires are as much a part of that person’s reality as are the things he does that we can see and experience with our limited senses.
Even the most simple person is extravagantly complicated, his inner life an immense multi-layered arena of private experience that is unavailable to us. Fiction peels back those layers so that we can see what lies beneath.
So what’s the novel really about?
Unread books are piles of dead paper until reading ignites them. Reading is what makes literature explosively procreative. Each reader brings a unique experience of the world to the book and perpetuates the story in some new and distinct manner.
Life experience is infinitely diverse and words can be slippery. There is no single way to interpret a text, an event, a character, no way for anyone to know exactly what the writer intended, sometimes not even the writer himself. Attentive readers invariably discover things the author is unaware of, and their insights continue to tell us what the story is about, so at the risk of sounding trite, this is a novel about being human.
But the world isn’t made of books. The versatility of words and the languages to which they belong can also produce a Tower of Babel effect. There are roughly 7,100 languages on the planet, and if we understand that each person’s reality is informed to a large degree by information unavailable to anyone else, in some sense we’ve upped the unofficial total to seven billion unique languages, or one per human being.
How will we ever understand one another?
It’s easy to see, then, how so much of life is spent misunderstanding what others say and do. Given so many words and a perpetual state of general confusion, we often find ourselves walking in a fog repeatedly asking Why. Why this? Why that? Why anything?
This lingering state of murkiness and uncertainty is at the heart of Mr. Galaxy’s Unfinished Dream and much of human experience. No matter how hard Lucas tries to answer the Why question, he fails.
But failure to understand isn’t necessarily failure.
Lucas comes to learn that what matters most doesn’t require understanding as much as it requires embracing and letting go what matters least. He has witnessed the consuming fires. He has seen how death lies down beside us all, wraps its arms around us all, how even so, one thing yet endures…
When Stan Yoblonski, referring to Don Quixote, says to Lucas, “I believe no true book is ever finished,” he is alluding to an animating principle that presides over all that is genuine, and to a continuity that persists beyond the written word and is intertwined with life itself, which Lucas—or maybe even Calderón—might suggest has the ineffable and enduring quality of an unfinished dream.
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Lucas Amado had a curious dream regarding the writing of this novel back in December 2015. To learn how this book came about and the relationship between Lucas Amado and the author, R. García Vázquez, click Author’s Preface.