“Not doing something is a doing that is often underestimated”
Reset, by Paolo Pergola, tells the story of Lapo Pardini, an Italian marine biologist who ended up in hospital having been found in a roadside ditch with multiple fractures. At first he had no memories of who he was or his past life. As his amnesia gradually clears he realises he preferred it when his head was empty.
“One day a woman came into my room, took my hand, the left one, and looked at me. It was nice. I didn’t know who she was, but isn’t that always the case? Now that my memory has come back, and I know that that woman was my wife, now – I wonder – but wasn’t it better before, when I didn’t know who she was, than now, now that I think I know who she is?”
Narrated in short chapters by the protagonist, the reader learns that Lapo would like to remain in hospital where he is fed and cared for without having to take on any responsibilities. His family and the medical staff tasked with his care are impatient with this attitude. They wish him to make an effort to return to how things were before his accident.
“Is real life forgetting to live every day”
Lying in his hospital bed, Lapo considers the details of his surroundings. He reads the same two books repeatedly. He plays the video games that occupy the youngster sharing his orthopedic ward and watches football matches he has no interest in with the older man in the other bed. Regular visitors – his wife, mother and brother – cannot comprehend why he fills his time in this way given how active and enquiring he used to be.
Lapo recognises that, although his days may appear the same, each is different. People go about their business. Time does not stand still. He ponders the possibilities should he be permitted to stay in this state of stasis. What had been his normal life no longer appeals.
Those trying to reason with Lapo are portrayed with a threatening undercurrent, their demands failing to account for how he now feels. He finds comfort in the acceptance of a kindly nurse, and his young niece with whom he plays word games. There is a childlike quality to his clinging to the known hospital routine, his retraction when the outside world encroaches and expects his compliance.
Interesting analogies can be made with Lapo’s recollections of his work studying fish and their reactions to hypoxia. Species develop differing reactions to maximise their chances of survival. Amongst these are choices between diving deep alone, thereby suffering the lack of oxygen, or swimming near the surface where the shoal risks the notice of predators.
Although written clearly and concisely in a way that conveys Lupa’s everyday experiences, his musings offer interesting thoughts on existentialism. In stating his wish to abdicate from former responsibilities, he risks upsetting his family. Eventually he will be forced to make some decisions.
The denouement offers another lens through which to consider Lupa’s behaviour. It provides a fitting pulling together of threads.
A story that offers a study of how everyday lives are lived, viewed from a fresh angle. A thought provoking and engaging read.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Sagging Meniscus.