The uncertainty of what a written work knows, what it doesn’t and indeed cannot know is at the centre of S. D. Chrostowska’s Permission. The mystery of the text is enhanced by the inclusion of a number of images reproduced throughout, adding a corporeal element, requiring a reader to look as well as read. Chrostowska, like Barthes, uses images in an attempt, only partly successful, to restore lost connections.
Described on the cover as a novel, formed around a series of emails, a mock-epistolary structure with added images and footnotes. The narrator-self moves through the text, ranging widely through topics like writing, solitude, death, the Holocaust, the nature of depression, slowly filling the present with the narrated past. Unlike most epistolary texts, this is not an exchange but a monologue with a quivering tension where the reactions of the protagonist-recipient are non-existent.
In an interview, Chrostowska says, “[Permission] was also an attempt at self-homeopathy: to write a literary work to be cured, once and for all, of the desire to write literature.” These letters, discursive and fragmented, produce such a void that I find them captivating. The construction of such a writerly text, at the better end of what could be considered literature suggests that the cure was a subtle but spectacular failure.