Ward (Pseudonym of Reimond Karel Maria de Belser) Ruyslinck Valentine Cunningham - Essay

Valentine Cunningham

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

What we want to hear we have translated promptly. Look how fast Animal Farm got about the world. So one assumes that Ward Ruyslinck's excitingly absurdist and grippingly disquieting meditation on our near-future has taken fourteen years to find an English publisher because it trades in the kind of dystopia we do not much care to relish. To be sure The Reservation casts—as do all gazings into brave new worlds—the obligatory cold eye on scientific inhumanism. But, and this distinguishes his bleakness from the frights of more popular visionaries, the god Ruyslinck sees failing is not Marxism but democracy….

If [the] anti-capitalist plotting were all, though, The Reservation would be impressive, but not nearly so impressive as in the event it is…. [What's] special about Ruyslinck's novel is that it shows people being denied the humanity they crave by "democratic" leaders who have gone in gleefully for brutism…. Ruyslinck's world has gone bestial. The novel builds a complex scaffolding of animal allusions. At best, beloveds are pets. At worst, men are predators, wolves and lions. People's names invoke animal connections: like Sim Ray the jazzman, and headmaster Whale. And of course Jonas [the protagonist] (or Jonah)—and it is only one of many nods towards Orwell—tumbles right inside the whale. "After all, why is your name Jonas?" Custodian of humane virtues, he is consigned, in the novel's most...

(The entire section is 439 words.)