Thomas M. Disch - Camp Concentration

Home

In Person

Biography

Works

Links

Credits

 

 

Novels

Short Fiction

Non-Fiction

Poetry

Anthologies

Edited by Disch

Miscellaneous



Camp Concentration

Serialised: New Worlds. July 1967. Aug 1967. Sep 1967. Oct 1967.

The great pleasure in reading this book is in its execution: the gradual dispensing of necessary information, the building of revelation upon revelation, the interaction and debate between characters, and most of all, Louis Sachetti's investigation of his environment and himself as he attempts to find some means of encompassing it all.

Although Camp Concentration draws upon the Faust legend it does not have its power. Faust is a tragedy because Faust chooses; Louis Sachetti has no choices to make, except for his conscientious objection - he is moved to Camp Archimedes, infected and saved all at the behest of external powers - party to great moral choices, involving imposition, good/bad etc raising larger questions about society but to all of which Louis Sachetti is only an observer . (Of course, it can be argued, in our modern age, we no longer have personal tragedies in the literary sense, rather we experience them on the massive scale, national disasters and calamities, holocausts, etc to which people are party, witnesses, or statistics thereof, but not individual tragedies in the old sense).

The importance that Louis Sachetti, our protagonist, should be a conscientious objector, rejecting the moral condition of Camp Archimedes and the larger world, finding strength in his Catholicism. [However in having the Catholic element Disch can also make reference to larger issues - how to live with evil, etc.] Louis Sachetti as an extreme case of the individual in society? Non-integrated (cf Dr. DuBusk June 6).

Hence the importance of Louis Sachetti as an individual - how much are to identify with Louis Sachetti: exactly, half-on, quasi-ironically: his character - his pride (Mordecai to Louis Sachetti June 16) and his retreat into prioggish superiority ("orthoepy") when meeting Mordecai;
In this respect are his failures to mention his family more, his sesquipedalianism, the dilettante element in configuring Louis II (which element Louis II, I would like to have seen used more) - are these failures on Louis Sachetti's part or failures by Disch?
- note the playing with tone and narrative progression in Sachetti's entries, addressed not only to himself but also his captors hence a variance in who is saying what to whom [the boundaries which are put upon what Sachetti is supposed to record - and in certain cases Sachetti's ignorance of what he is recording] and the interaction between the entries and the real world, where entries in certain instances not only record the plot but further it; even as an observer LS is implictated in his environs.

Louis Sachetti's own moral dilemmas (not just the practical ones of Camp Archimedes) but his faith, re. Louis II, Mordecai's extension of Camp Archimedes principles to the Universe (God as Eichman), and his tempting by Skilliman. Can Louis Sachetti be seen as a Faust who, though he follows the ostensible Faust narrative path, in never choosing never falls and is so redeemed from his condition?

Post The Bomb, the creations of the intellect - Technology (the whole matter of SF), the quest after sapience a la Faust and all the products and result of such, are no longer so innocent and delightful as they were in the Faust stories - Marlowe's Doctor Faustus is a tragedy of imagination's limits: at extremes of high and low comedy; when the uses to which they are put are at the disposal of a military government, so the relevance of the Faust theme to our age: Knowledge/ science can be a deal with the Devil (ta-da!); Relating to art after terrible moral choices and events - the Beauty/Terrible quotes, hence Louis Sachetti's trip to Germany and references to Concentration Camp composers, and the inmates own creative endeavours in the face of certain death

The ending is not as positive (or as glib) as it might appear - while aping/ in accord with Goethe's comi-grotesque redemption Louis Sachetti is ostensibly saved, but the terible moral questions remain, the choices and actions of the captors are now those of the inmates: "Why this is Hell, nor am I out of it". Survivor guilt becomes that of murder.

The novel/ plot is propelled by metaphor and analogy -
Faust is raised by demons to his knowledge -> demons/sylphs -> sylphs/spirochetes (though this imagery may originate with Mann); Alchemical terminology obscures the inmates scheme, but since it is their salvation from death they have genuinely effected a Philosopher's Stone; - Disch's expert ambivalence, his ability to eat his cake and have it

As further illumination and commentary I quote a small passage from "Stranger in the Sepulcher: Poe and the Gothic Tradition", Disch's introduction to Strangeness, 1977.


Other Reviews


Home

In Person

Biography

Works

Links

Credits

 

 

Novels

Short Fiction

Non-Fiction

Poetry

Anthologies

Edited by Disch

Miscellaneous



email ukjarry@hotmail.com with comments, suggestions, opinions and information.