Secret Cages – Barry Hale

“beneath the waters of the river, trapped in the chains of the dancing weed, I listened to the rumble of my own escaping breath….”

Reality disintegrates on the riot-torn streets of Paris. Hallucinations and distorted memories collide with the fractured present as the end of a turbulent l’Amour Fou is mirrored in the city’s self-destruction. The Snow Girl wakes from centuries of sleep beneath Arctic ice to lead two lovers to their spectacular demise.

A surrealist descent into dreamspace, a Modern Gothic fairytale.

I wrote this book twenty years ago. I’d had a row with my girlfriend – I left her to sleep and sat alone in the dark in my office. Around 2am, I turned on my state of the art Amstrad 512 word-processor and wrote the first couple of paragraphs, Beneath the waters of the river, wrapped in the chains of the dancing weed, I listened to the rumble of my own escaping breath. It summed up how I was feeling, but I had no idea then that this would be my first novel.

Over the next few weeks, something about the tone of these first few paragraphs caught my imagination, but I wasn’t sure yet what it would become. I had a long-running passion for the work of the surrealists, including the automatic writing of Breton and Eluard and the collage novels of Max Ernst. A couple of years before I had made 1,500 photo collage postcards, each one a single frame of a short super 8 film I’d made called Ubiguchi. I lay a bunch of them out on the desk. I typed up phrases suggested by the collages before me and that’s the source of the cascade of images that follow, …at the instant of the child’s death a man-like creature was run down by joy-riders in the backstreets of Marseilles. He was later found to be born of paper. … The victims of Nazi oppression carried Armstrong to the moon… All the aspirations of science can be found in that imbecilic hopscotch over barren soil.’

Where was I going with this? At that point I had no idea, but one of the collages showed a mummified child, a four year-old Greenland Inuit who’d died with her family five hundred years before and whose body was preserved by the ice. Something about the hollow sockets of her eyes, the haunted, sad expression on her face, something about how tiny and how perfect she was connected with me. And, in the collage I’d made, she was running ahead of a cohort of riot police…

I also had four volumes of dream diaries that I’d kept religiously for a few years and so suddenly the scene was set; a broken love affair, a long-dead mummified Inuit child unexpectedly returned to the world, street riots, dream images, surrealists… the only task then was to weave all this together into something resembling a coherent story.
That first draft took two years. I was also doing a degree at the time so I didn’t have a great deal of spare time. I finished it, but then circumstances separated the manuscript from me. I ended up in Penzance, Leeds, London, and the novel resided in a box somewhere at my parents’ house deep in the rural Midlands. I got it back fifteen years later. By then, the Amstrad disk was incompatible with any computer that I had access to, so I had only a slab of 500 typed sheets to work with. I undertook to rewrite it. That took three years, fitting in periods of writing around the other commitments of running a small business.

Why is it called Secret Cages? The central theme that emerged for me was how we adopt identities for the convenience of friends, family, for the world, and how friends, family, even strangers project identities upon us that we never chose for ourselves These identities are always in danger of diverting us from pursuing who we truly are and who we can yet become; what Aleister Crowley would call our True Will. So it’s about that; the cages of identity we unknowingly become trapped within.

So here it is, Secret Cages, I’ve tweaked it, but I tried to maintain the original tone with which it was written twenty years ago. Kaleidoscopic, hallucinatory, operating by some obscure dream logic, sometimes naïve, often strange, occasionally getting lost up some dark alley of the imagination. Born of love and fearless exploration of a landscape with no landmarks, no map and no compass.

I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think.

– Barry Hale: Threshold Dream Research Labs, Algiers, Sept 2012

Secret Cages is now available from our ebay store