A poção mágica

agosto 31, 2011

Foi no dia 11 de Agosto do ano corrente, 2011, às vésperas do Dia dos Pais, que eu passeava meus olhos através das prateleiras de única livraria no modesto e agradável shopping center da cidade na qual estabeleci residência há pouco mais de um mês.

De súbito, senti-me capturado pela estranha imagem de um busto pálido e franzino à capa de um livro negro. Mais tarde vim saber que aquela etérea figura fora extraída da composição fotográfica de Arthur Batut, intitulada Members of the Family of Arthur Batut (1886); composição esta que, por sua vez, encontra-se exposta no Museu Arthur Batut em Labruguière.

Bem, acredito que não preciso me delongar nessa introdução desastrada: acabei por adquirir o pequeno volume negro, com propósitos de estudá-lo e desenvolver uma composição a partir de seu conteúdo seminal.

Entretanto, após cuidadoso estudo, desisti da empreitada. Impressionou-me o teor da narrativa e sua natureza fortemente psicológica.

Talvez a obra tenha me impressionado sobremaneira pelo momento particular em minha vida dupla – de escritor e de cientista. Prefiro me abster de maiores comentários a esse respeito. E, para aqueles que se atrevem, deixo apenas vestígios ao longo do caminho.

This phrase captures something that is glimpsed repeatedly in the narrative: that the ‘ordinary’ condition of his society is for individuals to sin in secret, but also to hold, hide or attempt to discover or reveal secrets.

This lack of trust also affects our belief in the testimony of others, and undermines our faith in the veracity of what we read. From the very first page we are introduced to a world governed by public opinion, and by a fear of revelation and blackmail. In fact, it could be argued that the real ‘monster’ in Jekyll and Hide is opinion.

At the core of the text are silences, evasions, suppressions. Stevenson’s tale is effective as horror fiction because it create more questions than it answers. As a result it lives and grows in the imaginations of those who read and reread it over a hundred years after Dr Jekyll first concocted his potion.

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) was an enormous success for Stevenson. It sold 40,000 copies in six months in Britain alone, and appears to have been read by everyone including the prime minister and Queen Victoria herself. It struck a chord with the late-Victorian public, and very soon entered the collective imagination.

– Some excerpts from the Introduction by Robert Mighall, Ph.D. on Gothic fiction and Victorian medico-legal science at the University of Wales, 2002.

‘I am ashamed of my long tongue. Let us make a bargain never to refer this again.’

‘I can’t pretend that I shall ever like him,’ said the lawyer.

‘I don’t ask that,’ pleaded Jekyll, laying his hand up the other’s arm; ‘I only ask for justice; I only ask you to help him for my sake, when I am no longer here.’

Utterson heaved an irrepressible sigh. ‘Well,’ said he. ‘I promise.’

‘And now one word more: it was Hyde who dictated the terms in your will about that disappearance?’

The doctor seemed seized with a qualm of faintness; he shut his mouth tight and nodded.

‘I knew it,’ said Utterson. ‘He meant to murder you. You have had a fine scape.’

‘I have had what is far more to the purpose,’ returned the doctor solemnly: ‘I have had a lesson – O God, Utterson, what a lesson I have had!’ And he covered his face for a moment with his hands.

My dear Utterson, – When this shall fall into your hands, I shall have disappeared, under what circumstances I have not the penetration to foresee, but my instinct and all the circumstances of my nameless situation tell me that the end is sure and must be early.

Here I proceeded to examine its contents. The powders were neatly enough made up, but not with the nicety of the dispensing chemist; so that it was plain they were of Jekyll’s private manufacture; and when I opened one of the wrappers, I found what seemed to me a simple, crystalline salt of a white colour.

He thanked me with a smiling nod, measured out a few minims of the red tincture and added one of the powders. The mixture, which was at first of a reddish hue, began, in proportion as the crystals melted, to brighten in colour, to effervesce audibly, and to throw off small fumes of vapour. Suddenly and at the same moment, the ebullition ceased and the compound changed to a dark purple, which faded again more slowly to a watery green.

If each, I told myself, could but be housed in separate identities, life would be relieved of all that was unbearable; the unjust might go this way, delivered from the aspirations and remorse of his more upright twin; and the just could walk steadfastly and securely on this upward path, doing the good things in which he found his pleasure, and no longer exposed to disgrace and penitence by the hands of this extraneous evil. It was the curse of the mankind that these incongruous faggots were thus bound together – that in the agonized womb of consciousness, these polar twins should be continuously struggling. How, then were they dissociated?

I am now persuaded that my first supply was impure, and that it was that unknown impurity which lent efficacy to the draught.

– Some excerpts from The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, 1886.

References:

Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Tales of Terror, Edited by Robert Mighall, Penguin Books, 2002

seeing & being seen, A quick return to the aerial, http://meggangould.net/blog/?p=48 , 2007

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