I am a writer, editor and gardener living in the Calder Valley, West Yorkshire. I have a degree and masters in Literature and Philosophy undertaken while living in London. I obtained a PGCE in English and History and taught for two years in a secondary school in England (age range: 11-18). My writing credits can be viewed here. I have had two poetry books published and am co-translator of Alain-Fournier:Poems (Carcanet, 2016). I am an editor and associate publisher at The High Window Press.
David Constantine's The Loss reads like an animated film shot in monochrome. It has the bleakness of Barton Fink with none of the comedy; it has the blandness of a business conference where every hollow speech effortlessly delivered receives a collective anodyne round of applause.
This story is preoccupied with the soul, or the loss and lack of it, and with those who have lost it and, perhaps, never wanted it, or ever felt they needed it. They are, in a sense, anti-angels or unrecording angels. They live by body and (unquestioning) mind alone and life is purgatory, despite outward signs of success and achievement.
Mr Silverman, a business executive, the epitome of the soul-less human, travels between New York, Singapore, Frankfurt, London (convention after convention), is chillingly aware that he has no soul, or has lost it, and that he has the ability to recognise other soul-less humans. Even Silverman's infidelities are soul-less (i.e, love-less and passion-less); his wife's passive acceptance of his transgressions add to his state of loss.
This story, with the symbol of ice used as a running motif, and ending with a scene with an ice-pick (I won't spoil the ending) is perhaps too beautifully written for the subject matter. I think the writing could have even been more concise, brutally spare.
In The Loss Constantine says something philosophically interesting about the concept of the Soul. Here he suggests, quite profoundly, that the soul is something we can choose to have. For some characters (and some humans) like Silverman's wife, the 'soul is necessary'. Salvation might be down to choice. Soul is not a given, or God-given, not attached to a logos or rich psyche. Those who don't have it, or have lost it (and for Silverman it is too late to get it back), have in its place 21 corporeal grams of something like a blob of lead within the body, within the mind, within consciousnesses; this ingot of irritating metal, kidney-shaped in the story, which moves about the body at will, never lets the soul-less human settle into anything like basic satisfaction. The title reminds us that Silverman possibly once had a soul, and that, therefore, the soul can be irrevocably lost, and that one might even have a choice with regards to its passing.