Tuesday, 1 November 2016

House of Leaves and The Vanishing Life and Films of Emmanuel Escobada

Source: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/

“My father was a filmmaker. In the 50s, live television. Later avant-garde. Eventually he got into documentaries. (...) My father will be remembered for a lot of things but by some, TZD--as some of my friends called him--will be forever known for his passionate consideration of the art of cinema." 

"My intention had been to present this piece of writing as a gift to mY father."
Mark Z.Danielewski interviewed by Kasey Carpenter

One of my favourite pieces of fiction from Nemonymous magazine, edited by D. F. Lewis, whom I had the pleasure to interview for Confusio Linguarum last month, is "The Vanishing Life and Films of Emmanuel Escobada", which appeared in the second issue. This phenomenal story centers on a forgotten Brazilian film-maker who mysteriously disappeared while making a film entitled "Nos Olvidamos?" and whose works started falling into complete oblivion, as if they never existed in the first place. The piece is written in the form of a non-fiction article and treats Escobada as a real person. Earlier this week its author confirmed that he would like to remain anonymous forever.

I once speculated that the author of the story is Mark Z. Danielewski, who as a writer received world-wide recognition for his experimental novel House of Leaves, of which I am a huge enthusiast. In my article (now fittingly lost) I speculated that House of Leaves author's father, Tad Danielewski, served as the inspiration for the main character of TVLAFOEE  and that the story is Mark Z. Danielewski's tribute to his father. Tad Danielewski was a Polish avant-garde film director whose last film was shot in Spanish ("España puerta abierta"). TVLAFOEE shares with House of Leaves and "All the Lights of Midnight" (a short story by Danielewski) this eccentric misuse of Spanish words typical for Danielewski. It is worth noting that House of Leaves originally began as a short story, titled Redwood. In the interview available on chuckpalahniuk.net the author reveals that he wrote it as a gift for his hospitalized father.

Another key point of my speculation was the TVLAFOEE's website, which is still there: http://www.members.tripod.com/scott_warrick/index.html. Feel free to spend some time browsing through it to experience real confusio linguarum. The website consists of a few articles outlining major plot points of Escobada's films. Throughout its existence the website has morphed into an incomprehensible jumble of words (google-)translated into German, Portuguese, Russian and Italian to simulate the phenomenon of collective dementia straight from the story. 
It is interesting to note that House of Leaves contains "countless quotations and phrases strewn throughout the book in numerous other languages, ranging from Latin to Spanish to Old English. Some of these are translated, but many are not" as reported in an earlier version of the wikipedia article about the book (now removed):

I've also managed to rescue some screenshots from my hard drive to demonstrate that the Escobada website once contained a sentence that was repeated throughout its contents: "This is not for you" appearing in various languages. The same sentence is printed on the dedication page of House of Leaves:
Coincidentally (or not?) when I reported on the House of Leaves connection back in 2010, the author of the website replaced these words with painfully sobering ones: "You will never understand".

Some further points of connection between Danielewski's works, Escobada story and the website:
  • Footnotes pointing to fictional sources
  • Text printed in various colours - whole sentences on the website vs single words in House of Leaves
  • Unreliable narrator - Johnny in House of Leaves and the author of the article forming the body of "The Vanishing Life and Films of Emmanuel Escobada"
  • Perhaps the most important: Authorship questions - "Danielewski goes out of his way to further blur the lines of what is real and what isn't, and of who is writing what. There are many arguments, based on various parts of the text which blur who is writing what, that all of House of Leaves (or all of it excluding the Whalestoe Letters, for some theories) was written by a single character within the series" - again removed from wikipedia.
There are many more parallels!

Regardless of who the author of "The Vanishing Life and Films of Emmanuel Escobada" is and whether the story is in any way linked to Danielewski, whoever wrote it deserves some recognition for her/his determination to remain anonymous and for letting this unforgettable story live a life of its own.

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