Seeing Red by Lina Meruane
Dallas, Texas. Deep Vellum. 2016. 157 pages.
Seeing Red, by Chilean writer Lina Meruane, is an exemplary autobiographical novel. At a party in New York City, the main character, Lina, suffers from a stroke, which causes the blood vessels behind her corneas to burst. According to her, this stroke was inevitable and doctors forewarned her of this fate. Her vision disappears behind what she describes as “black blood.” Rather than panicking, Lina walks back out into the party she’s attending, acting as normal as she can while threads of blood float across her eyes.
As the event comes to an end, she stumbles through the city with a friend and her partner, Ignacio. Losing her eyesight means relying on those around her with more intensity. So, she must rely on her lover, Ignacio, and her overbearing mother to care for her and lead her around. Their relationships are tested, and Lina goes back and forth between appreciating them and dreading her need for them. Lina isn’t an optimistic heroine. She has a dark sense of humor, she’s difficult, and she’s selfish.
The book contains bursts of immaculate stream of consciousness flowing from Lina’s mind, and it is packed with visceral language in each short chapter. Seeing Red takes the reader through the gorgeous and uncomfortable descent of Lina’s mind because of her obsession with gaining her eyesight back. She adapts to the senses she still has but becomes eerily obsessed with gaining new eyes; at one point, she even asks Ignacio for one of his eyeballs. Meruane’s voice is undeniably fresh, corporeal, and poetic. Seeing Red reminds the reader of our inevitable fates. We get older, our DNA shrinks, and we collapse into our mortalities. For Lina, it starts with her eyes, and the book gives us the beginning of her dizzying obsession with gaining something she could never get back.
Rios de la Luz