This is part of my Other Authors series, where I share dissociated voices written by a number of different novelists.
Today I’m sharing my thoughts on The Comforts of Madness by Paul Sayer.
In The Comforts of Madness, the protagonist Peter is in a fixed catatonic state – and it’s something he explains that he chose: “I could not move, had no strength, no desire to. Nothing was left in me at all [but I] allowed myself one last act, one last indulgence before the years that followed: I smiled.”
The delusions experienced by Peter are strangely fascinating. When the patient in the bed next to him attempts suicide, Peter believes he will be blamed – even though he has been a victim of complete catatonia for a significant period: “I had thoughts only for the repercussions of the man’s actions among the staff. I sensed I was to be implicated, ah God, I knew I was. Their wish to find a scapegoat for the night nurse’s inefficiency would be irresistible.”
Peter spends a lot of time thinking about death and fears the death of his body – even though he has all but rejected it: “That this skin, these bones, eyes, teeth, organs, would also one day end up as ashes, as nothing, imparted in me a dread I had not known before.”
As inactive as he is, Peter sees life in inanimate objects: “The house with its many small rooms, heavy wide doors, angled windows, mirrors and paintings, seemed to be absorbing me in some way, pressing in on me, constricting, trying to digest me, always watchful.”