Sartre meets Nietzsche, meets Irvine Welsh: U. H. Dematagoda’s Horizontal Rain stands as a contemporary testament to male angst.
The novel hits hard with a crescendo of emotion as the main character’s girlfriend leaves him, and sets the stage for the cycle of rebirth and death that steers the narrative. Each passage of the story hits you like a hangover, and follows the main character from one binge to the next as he “searches for the sublime,” whatever or whoever that might be. In any case, it's a futile exercise that gracefully and elegantly embodies the spirit of the Absurd. The anxiety that Dematagoda expresses in this novel is that no reader is very far from being the main character of this story. Every human is the common denominator.
Throughout the novel, Dematagoda expertly describes the evolution of human emotions and physical repercussions of anxiety on the body. The author’s prowess with the writing of feelings is unmatched, and the narrative encourages readers to remember times when they felt what is experienced by the main character - stress, sexual tension, fear, addiction, confusion, arrogance, love, loss of control, and the list goes on. The torrent of the narrative is only broken by long bouts of academic philosophical interlocutions veiled as casual chats over pints at the pub.
Dematagoda weaves a story that is both gritty yet elegant. Existential and nihilistic themes are at the forefront of the narrative, and Dematagoda presents these academic notions in ways that are easily digestible by readers. Continental philosophers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries would be proud to see the contemporary application of their maxims or concepts in this novel. This story takes its place in the vanguard of Scottish Absurdism and carries the torch passed on by novelists such as Irvine Welsh.
Horizontal Rain by U. H. Dematagoda expands on the Scottish grit-novel and adds a philosophical dimension to the shock value this literary style naturally carries.
About the reviewer
Dr. Serge Larocque completed his Ph.D in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. After living in Europe for a few years, he returned to his native Ottawa, Ontario, where he finds time to write between work and violin lessons.