Book review: The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty

imagesA while ago I read a review of this book in the New York Times book review: Vendela Vida’s The Divers Clothes Lie Empty offers freedom to escape. I had never read anything else by the author, and found out that this is her fourth novel, and according to the reviewer, her best. I was intrigued by the theme of lost and found identity and ordered the book.

As I opened the book I was immediately thrown off my center as it is written in an unusual second person narrative style, i.e., “You say your name”, “You pick up your suitcase”.  “You” is traveling to Casablanca, and even though her guidebook says that when you get to Casablanca you should leave immediately, she doesn’t. What starts off as a novel about the nightmares of foreign travel, turns into an intriguing exploration of identity change. ‘You’ immediately loses her backpack and all of her identity cards and passport, and she starts unraveling. The novel is written in a very exact style…you go through practically every minute with her as she deals with her lost identity. She goes to the police, then to the American Embassy, but cannot prove who she is. Then she starts lying about who she is. She gets a job as a ‘stand-in’ for an actress filming a movie in Casablanca. She moves from hotel to hotel in order to avoid being found out that she has no identity…and that she is lying. Her journey starts off terribly, but the road she travels gets more and more interesting. Why she is in Casablanca, why she gets lost, and why she needs a new identity gets revealed by the end of the book. It is such an unusually suspenseful tale I just have to recommend it.

The title comes from a poem by the same name by Rumi:

The Diver’s Clothes Lying Empty

You are sitting here with us,
but you are also out walking in a field at dawn.

You are yourself the animal we hunt
when you come with us on the hunt.

You are in your body
like a plant is solid in the ground,
yet you are wind.

You are the diver’s clothes
lying empty on the beach.
You are the fish.

In the ocean are many bright strands
and many dark strands like veins that are seen
when a wing is lifted up.

Your hidden self is blood in those,
those veins that are lute strings
that make ocean music,
not the sad edge of surf
but the sound of no shore.

Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Sally allen
    Aug 13, 2015 @ 00:31:51

    My daughter went to Burkes with her. I look forward to reading the book



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