An Animal Called Mist
By Ledicia Costas
Small Stations Press – £8.99
The eighty-seven remaining days in Mauthausen were a torment. In the embrace of an animal called mist, with barely a ray of light in which to seek solace, Martha survived by clinging to the beat of freedom.
(‘An Animal Called Mist’)
The ocean in the middle of the night is a black sheet. An unreal blanket that sways beneath the stars with a mysterious, unsettling rhythm. It’s like being lost in the middle of nothing. Darkness is a perverse animal. It arouses fears that are lodged in the deepest part of us. Fears we are not even aware of. But more perverse than the darkness is that which moves inside the waters, in that place where nature chose to summarize the concept of ferocity.
(‘The Last Mission of the USS Indianapolis’)
The above excerpts are from two of six harrowing short stories; each of which is addresses the most acute darkness, of which the human condition is ultimately capable of experiencing, denying and (to a certain degree) partaking.
Quite how the Galician authoress, Ledicia Costas, came to assemble her words and intrinsically write of such frenzied, yet all too considered barbarism – is almost impossible to imagine. Let alone conceive.
As she already states in the first of the stories ‘Leningrad’: ”There were things that simply couldn’t be removed from the brain. However hard you tried to rip them out, they would take root again like weeds.”
All the more reason to negotiate not writing about them.
There again, what’s written within the pages of An Animal Called Mist – as devastating as it is – does invariably need to be told again and again and again.
Even if only to serve as a reminder for future generations.
Whether it’s the despicable Nazi Siege of Leningrad, the aforementioned sinking of the USS Indianapolis, the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the totally unwarranted (and heinous) interrogation of Italian partisans by the Banda Koch, or the sexual exploitation of women internees in Nazi concentration camps – they were all triggered, if not actually committed, by other human beings.
Many would argue that the Nazis weren’t actually human beings (”I have no conscience. My conscience is Adolf Hitler”), although herein lies another argument or dissertation altogether.
This has to be one of the most devastating books one could ever read.
As well as one that one would sooner (try and) forget.
Yet something tells me An Animal Called Mist is wholeheartedly capable of embedding itself within the psyche.
Rather like a recurring bad dream.