The Perseverance of the Hole-Filled Sky

Fotograma Interstellar, de Christopher Nolan (2014)
Still from «Interstellar», by Christopher Nolan (2014).

You know this hole

originated long ago from the death of a star

Kip Thorne





Human associations based on feelings are often unfair. They demand a permanent agreement between what we know about people and what we expect them to be, they float on the arduous balance between reality and its ghost. Thus, parents and children ask each other to save the world and make it a blissful place for the other. Here lies the germ of a fairytale that harasses us through age: that first love is usually an irregular experience but we force ourselves to believe that it will be consummated in august satisfaction. We come to assume with artificial cultural zeal that having parents and having children is invariably illuminated by the same star, whether it is called sacrifice, self-denial, or survival of the species. But stars die or transform, there is a reverberation on the canvas of things, and singularity sleeps in the mouth of a ferocious and beautiful phenomenon: Murphy Cooper is the daughter of someone in Interstellar (2014)—the ninth feature film by Christopher Nolan—and claims to have a talkative ghost in bookshelves of her room, which is clearly the library of Cooper, her father. But what is a ghost? In The Road (2006), Cormac McCarthy offers a theory: «A person who has no one would do well to get a more or less passable ghost. Instill life into it and pamper it with words of love. Offer him phantom crumbs and protect it with their own body (…) When you have nothing else, invent ceremonies and infuse them with life.»




There has to be a hero, of course. Cooper’s enemy is the imminent collapse of the planet, which means his children are going to die. Worse still: while that happens, the family survives, doomed to seek their place in the dust, confined to the mediocrity of farmers without stars. Cooper is an emissary of the once-enlightened century; science must be its aristocracy, for its children to inherit the title of kings of the world. Someone has to teach us how to look at the sky with pride and greed. Then, his daughter, baptized under the law of whatever could happen, will happen, thanks to the ghost that inhabits her library, in a mystical turn, finds the geographic coordinates of NASA. Boom. Grab your nearest Wikipedia. In the next few minutes we will have to understand, with some effort, that this film also recreates the disturbing existence of wormholes, of space-temporal relativity and implacable black holes, issues that will turn the father and explorer into a hero without return who departs as Aeneas, at times indolent with his past, but in favor of a better future, whose sacrifices will be rewarded just like the exemplary Christian awaits eternal life. Cooper departs (that is, leaves his daughter) in a spacecraft, accompanied by a group of scientists, to visit another galaxy through a gravitational anomaly that someone opened near Saturn, hoping to find a second chance for the humans that have already destroyed one planet. Forty-eight minutes later, we discover that the epigraph of this film is a poem by Dylan Thomas in the voice of Michael Caine:


Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had been forked in lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night


At this point, Christopher Nolan’s narrative vulgarities are of little importance (to me). Many people hated the film for various reasons, and they are right. But I am writing this perhaps because I am a weak and uncritical viewer, or perhaps because my cartography of meanings involves other orbits. I am interested in faith, that uncomfortable or neurotic issue that emerges when we evaluate our fairy tale of choice, and that determines some center of emotional gravity. Adalber Salas Hernández puts the icing on this cosmogonic cake: «Faith, as we understand it on this side of the world, is a notion rooted in a certain event that may or may not have happened. Its strict veracity is in fact irrelevant; what is important is the overwhelming symbolic potential of the story.»




In the end, Murphy, the daughter of the hero, is the one who saves the world.


To grow and save the world is to forgive someone who did not save us enough, and such fundamental loneliness, such prototype of primordial abandonment, is the philosopher’s stone that finally turns us into someone. The subversive in Interstellar is that at some point in its narrative, it decides to dispense with the allegorical effort and declares its reasoning with a bare line, by far cheesy and Hollywoodesque: that love is the most powerful force in the universe.




Is love the most powerful force in the universe?




I don’t know. But for some reason, we tell stories like these to ourselves, and we blush and even become outraged in high exegesis about them. Perhaps an unjust myth like that of love corrupts the social fabric, making it too hard an exercise, between breakups or parents and children whose relationships also break: we made love something too great, and we are often destined to fail when we try to consummate it. But there is a ghost, an insistent singularity that dwells beyond Murphy Cooper’s room. «We call ghosts—says Miguel Gomesthe happiness that is lost or not obtained; but also, without understanding it, the satisfied absences that accompany us in the shyness of the invisible. We are made of all this.»




Faith is the proud silence that insists. From here we cannot hear the rumor of the black hole when it is doing its work, and yet.



* About the author:

Enza García Arreaza (Puerto la Cruz, 1987) is an editor at Backroom Caracas, writer, and poet. She obtained the VII Cuento Contigo Literary Prize bestowed by Casa de América (Madrid, 2004) with «La parte que le tocó a Caleb». In 2007, she won the prize for unpublished authors hosted by Monte Ávila Editores with the book of short stories Cállate poco a poco (Monte Ávila Editores, 2008). In 2009, she received the III National University Literature Prize, hosted by Universidad Simón Bolívar, with the book El bosque de los abedules (Equinoccio, 2010). Her writing appears in the anthologies Cuento Contigo 2 (Madrid, Siruela, 2006), and Zgodbe iz Venezuele (Eslovenia, Sodobnost International, 2009); in the collections De la urbe para el orbe. Nueva narrativa urbana (Caracas, Alfadil, 2006); Joven Narrativa Venezolana III. Premio de Cuento Policlínica Metropolitana para Jóvenes Autores 2009-2010 (Caracas, Equinoccio, 2011); De qué va el cuento. Antología del relato venezolano 2000-2012 (Caracas, Alfaguara, 2013); Tiempos de nostalgia / Tiempos de saudade (Caracas, Ediciones del Instituto Cultural Brasil–Venezuela, 2013), and in Voces -30. Nueva narrativa latinoamericana (Chile, Ebookspatagonia, 2014). The book of short stories Plegarias para un zorro was published in 2012 by bid & co. editor. El animal intacto, her first poetry book, was published in 2015 by Ediciones Isla de libros.