Bullet in the Brain

Shimon Adaf On:

Bullet in the Brain by Tobias Wolff

“Bullet in the Brain” is one of the most beautiful images that a literary work has managed to create for literature itself. Maybe it’s because it presents the greatest tensions at the very basis of literature with such elegance and simplicity: the tension between the cliché, the predetermined articulation, and the creative urge; between the criticism that annihilates any naïve pretension and the untainted event in which language transgresses its place and manages to rouse a desire in another person, awaken an awareness to its existence, to its liberating force.
And maybe it’s because it dramatizes the most powerful mechanism literature has always had at its disposal: the extension and compression of time, its organization, disassembling and construction. In the fleeting moment in which a bullet destroys the tissue in Anders’ brain at the bank, a seemingly random memory pops up in all its tangibility, a memory that explains Andres’ shot down position in the bank, his physical death and the death of his eros, which preceded the physical death and can express itself only as a blockage of emotional expression – a witticism, a joke, sarcasm. The duality between Anders’ biological time and the never-ending expanse of his consciousness is welded into one loop: the moment of falling in love with language and the moments of its degradation, which end in death. And we are left to wonder about the space in the middle – a whole life that was composed of that love, the despair of it, its desecration, the process of becoming reacquainted with it; its turning into a story.