Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Restraint of Beasts by Magnus Mills – A Book Review

 

The restraint of who? – The restraint of beasts!
But where are the beasts?

Two workers, Tam and Ritchie, and the foreman, the narrator, are responsible for building high tensile fences on their clients’ farms. Their manager, Mr. Donald is a fastidious boss. So, they drive, smoke, rest, have tea, sleep, work, visit the local pub, look for women, have beer, get drunk, sleep. And again, and again. They need to be prodded, instigated, Tam and Ritchie, for them to be out of their beds and do some work. If not, they would rather have beer and sleep all day, and night of course. The fence is finally built and it’s looking good. Oh, but the client is accidentally killed. And buried.

So they move on to the next assignment. They drive, smoke, rest, have tea, sleep, work, visit the local pub, look for women, have beer, get drunk, sleep. And again, and again. The fence is finally built and it’s looking good. Oh, but the client is accidentally killed, and buried, yet again.

And then they move to the next assignment.......

The fences are built, but there’s no sign of no animals, and now there are no owners as they peacefully lie in the depth of the buried earth.

I surprised myself by not getting bored with the ludicrously trite routine of the characters; rather enjoyed their idiosyncrasies. I grinned at their indolence as they reminded me of some people I’ve had the misfortune to work with.

The author, Magnus Mills has subtly and metaphorically drawn the need to restrain the two legged creature as much as is deemed necessary for the four legged ones (Between 1979 and 1986 Magnus Mills built high-tensile fences for a living, an experience he drew upon for this novel). The need to be tamed, disciplined, berated, to move, to be motivated to move to greener pastures is felt needed by both; the safety in confines is the disposition of both. Like the beasts, we are born, live and die; we don’t give much thought to the goat that was served for dinner, do we, except maybe to the tenderness of the meat? Maybe, that explains the dead-pan humour (discovered this phrase when reading about the author) in the cold (accidental) killings of the clients. Was it sorrowful – no, was it deliberate – no, did it evoke reproach – no, was it funny – no, why should it? Was it forgotten – easily! Life goes on...

On another note, we feel free, safe in our confines, don’t we? We aren’t born to be free, we are born to be restrained – to do as we are told, do this, don’t do that, do it this way, behave, sit, stand, brush, eat, travel, go to work, return home, sleep, ready yourselves for another day of a mundane struggle – the more taut the string, the more effective the fence. An introvert would feel as free in a crowded party as would a garrulous person on a marooned island.

We are tethered by the invisible shackles of our thoughts and imposed values and we roam around feeling free only till we feel the tug of the chain, and then we saunter back to our safer grounds. We are herded into the influential lives that we live; only few choose to, resolve to break free and live in the wilderness.

As Oscar Wilde said “To define is to limit.” But then again, was that for humans? :)
 
My rating: * * * * * * * * * * - 6/10 

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