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Joel Lane
The Witnessess Are Gone
Reviewed by: Mario Guslandi © 2009

PS Publishing
UK Hardcover First Edition
ISBN: 978-1906301255
Publication date: April 2009
64 pages; £10.00/ $16.00
Date reviewed: 09-10-2009

Index:  Horror  Science Fiction  General Fiction

A guy moves in an old house and finds in a garden shed the videocassette of an obscure movie by an unknown French director, Jean Rien. The film is depressing but intriguing. So much so that the man decides to investigate the mystery behind the enigmatic filmmaker, whose body of work appears to be untraceable and virtually unobtainable.

This is the start of the beautiful novella by Joel Lane. To say more would be to spoil the pleasure to read and enjoy a book which in only 64 pages will lead us far away in time and space.

'The Witnesses are gone' is not only a kind of psychological detective tale where the ending is a predictable defeat, but also the story of an obsession and an overwhelming thirst for knowledge. Much more than that, the quest for the elusive movies of an elusive artist becomes an allegory of the search for the meaning of human existence and of the desire to overcome the reality of everyday life, which, in the case of our hero (and of too many of us) is opaque, disappointing and frustrating. Thus, Lane’s totally fascinating novella is a multilayer piece, the meaning of which is buried among the very roots of man’s never-ending need to discover the ultimate truth.

The name of the director himself, Jean Rien (which in English would translate to "John Nothing") is an overt pun, the symbolism getting even more transparent when, towards the end of the story the name becomes Juan Nada (the Spanish translation of "John Nothing").

The author’s spellbinding narrative style makes it impossible to put the book down until the final page. Although here and there overburdened by the usual cocktail of booze + sex + drugs ever-present in Lane’s fiction, the novella does manage to excite, unsettle, and trigger in the reader the same insatiable lust for those rare films, the very existence of which remains uncertain.

It’s very uncommon that a piece of short fiction like this can include so many emotions, meanings and secret keys. You don’t want to miss this extraordinary reading experience.

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