Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Avalovara is clearly a very ambitious work. Two themes—time and space—are suggested by the geometric design at the front of the text, and the entire structure of the novel is determined by the relationship of the physical space of the squares and the progression of the spiral of time over that space. Julius Heckethorn’s clock is a variation on the theme, since he decides to set the device in motion at the exact second that will cause its musical culmination to coincide with Abel’s moment of fruition. That moment of fruition is a contrary one, since in the process of attaining paradise (Nirvana, knowledge, awareness) he must die, a conceit which is only partially in harmony with any orthodoxy, at least any Western orthodoxy. The title itself suggests that the philosophical framework for Abel’s quest is rooted in a mysticism more encompassing than can be found in Roman Catholicism, though there are also allusions to Western notions of transcendence, which might indicate that the substructure of the inquiry is not exclusively Buddhist but eclectic.

The interrelationship of time and space is, then, the overriding conceit in Avalovara, but numerous other kinds of questions are included in this central quest. Each major theme is elaborated contrapuntally by secondary ones: The cities embodied in Roos are part of the search for Absolute City; the names and non-names of the characters suggest a search for the name, the Word;...

(The entire section is 441 words.)