Anthony Anaxagorou, renowned for his performance poetry, prefers to lean towards matters painful to confront. He tackles issues such as domestic violence, masculinity, and imperialism, through poetry and spoken word. It has been said that audience members have walked out midway through a live performance, their eyes filled with tears. So I was not surprised that there is little remotely light-hearted or superficial about his new collection of short stories.
The Blink That Killed the Eye is Anaxagourou’s first venture into the land of written prose. The book explores the different nuances of invisibility within society. Each story glances underneath the veil of the seemingly ordinary, whilst exploring the concealed pain behind daily existence. Dark, sombre opening lines include “We’d been split up for about three months” and “I will die on a Thursday”.
At times, I felt like an intruder, nosing in on the solitary musings of an ill-fated stranger. This was true for the less conversational stories like ‘Keep Still’ - an internal monologue of a woman repeatedly raped by her husband, ruminating on life and her deceased father.
The stories appeared to touch on psychology, the human condition, and the way childhood trauma influences adult behaviour. Like in ‘Yellow Daffodil’, where Anaxagorou reveals snippets of the wife-murdering protagonist’s painful childhood, in which his mother’s new boyfriend “crept into his room […] to manoeuvre a sticky hand slowly, pantingly into the bareness of his underwear”, amongst other upsetting occurrences. The book also touched on gender stereotypes and the various dimensions of societal power and status.
Each story has an ambiguous, cryptic ending, leaving the reader with a sense of doubt and speculation. And so you don’t get that warm sense of fulfillment - as you might at the end of a novel – but instead a sharp existential aftertaste. Anaxagorou provokes the reader to scrutinise and contemplate on life, death, freedom, and meaning.
The Blink That Killed the Eye is suited for those who have an interest in philosophy and the human mind. It’s also for lovers of poetry. Anaxagourou’s poetic roots are evident throughout the book, in one story describing wheelchairs as “lachrymose chariots”.
Overall, The Blink That Killed the Eye is beautifully written, full of metaphors and vivid language. I enjoyed the way Anaxagorou portrayed the characters’ emotions and experiences in an honest, yet sensitive way. Nothing was glamourised. The stories felt genuine, which enabled me to sympathise with them.
The book was intense and emotionally draining, with some stories easier to digest than others. I found myself wanting to take a break between each story, a chance to reflect and perhaps recuperate from some of the unsettling scenes described. It’s a book I would not suggest reading when you’re having a bad day, or to a child as a bedtime story.
Although the theme is invisibility, the overarching message and intention of the book seems rather ambiguous. Though I suspect that The Blink That Killed the Eye was crafted not for mere entertainment, but rather to encourage deep thought and reflection on the tender truths of human existence.