The Sonderman Constellation
A dream. A recollection. Dreams and thoughts. Dreams and thoughts expressed as symbols. The individual human mind being a part of society and an historical continuum seeks symbols to express an unutterable reality, thus a common set of symbols expresses the common problems that humans have. Isn’t that what Jung’s collective unconscious really is, just a common dreamscape where everything is commuted into universal symbolism? I think so.
What is the greatest repository of psychological symbolism in the world? Don’t you think it’s Greek mythology? There is certainly no lack of interest in the Greek myths. Greek mythology is one of the most active topics on the internet; not only are there many sites but many active sites, sites constructed with loving and reverent care. And why not? Greek mythology is the largest repository of psychological symbolism in the world and by far the most profound. The significance of the Bible pales in comparison.
The Sonderman Constellation is placed within the framework of that body of profound thought. The ordinary events in a boy’s life take on cosmic significance.
The construction of the Sonderman is somewhat unusual. As the novel is meant to present a reality from within the mental workings of one mind and one mind only the logic it follows is personal but intelligible. The narrator has an identity only in his own mind. In that state he is trying to make contact with yours. That is what a good novel does; flow from one mind to another. Cast in the form of a memoir the story is valid even though decades and even generations separate the story from the present.
The Unknown Narrator gropes for a way to make his life make sense to himself and you. You are he- he is you. Hence the prefatory motto ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ The Delphic credo: Know thyself. The two quotes delineate the story.
The second chapter- The Pyschonautica- is the most significant of the book. It is through the Greek foundations of psychology that the actions of the protagonists the Sondermans and the Hirshes become intelligible. It is through mythological symbolism that their minds are explored. Perhaps that is what Jung means by his term the collective unconscious.
Regardless of what the reader may think the author is not the Unknown Narrator. No matter how much the author envisions the past through his own lens he is not the Unknown Narrator, he who narrates things not exactly as they were but as they may have been. The persistence of memory is strong but it is impossible to recreate the reality. One might bear in mind the song: ‘Gee, ain’t it funny how time slips away.’
Things suffer sea changes and become distorted by memory and yet it is still the sea and still memory. The narrator is narrating universal symbols and not specifics although specifics form the content of the symbols. This is a story of the collective unconscious.
The story elements are meaningful only in that context. The narrator in the first chapter attempts to give the story a setting within the framework of personal psychology and the manner in which the personal psychology relates to and incorporates the external world into his own mind; hence the chapter title: The Psychogenesis. The beginning of the psychosis.
The narrator is not the protagonist. His antagonists the Hirshes and Sondermans are. The narrator is just driftwood on the river buffeted by currents that he cannot resist.
The story will progress through to the full blown psychotic reactions of both the Narrator and Sonderman. No matter what crimes or nonsense are going on in the outside world the action is in the mind of the narrator and hence yours since he is carrying on a dialogue with you.
The second chapter- The Psychonautica- places the story within the context of the mythos, the collective unconscious. This is the key chapter of the book and the most popular as evidenced by the hits to my website: reprindle.wordpress.com.
Once the first two chapters provide the necessary background for the reader to properly evaluate the action, the last two chapters narrate the consequences, the development of the psychoses.
The story is played out in detail in Chapters III and IV. Chapter III -The Psychodramatica- tells of the Narrator’s preposterous journey through Junior High, the absurd adventures with Sonderman that end up with their apparent estrangement mid ninth grade.
The last chapter- The Psychoses- details the mad adventures in High School during which as the narrator develops intellectually he separates the external from the internal reality.
While the story takes place during 1950-56 the memories of the unconscious range back into the distant past and into the recent past that also shape the development of the Narrator’s mind while incorporating future events that show how his indoctrination finds expression. Dream waiting to be dreamt having been ordained by the psychological traumas of the past, present and future of both the Narrator and the collective. There is nothing but memory within the collective unconscious.
The good news is that the story has as happy an ending as was possible; the bad news is that it was hell getting there.
When reading just let your mind drift through the story. Let the details add up until they form one continuum. By the second or third reading you will be learning the song and the tune.
As a musical reference, as I was writing, as a model for the story, I bore Pauline Olivero’s electronic piece titled I of IV in mind. It’s early electronic. I don’t recommend it; it’s not for everyone, but you can try it if you want. Steve Reich’s ‘Let the Bruise Blood Come Out’ is on the same record. Might have been an influence on the story too. We’ll never know.
Go to Chapter One of The Sonderman Constellation