West's "Supa Hot Fire" (5/8)

Rebecca’s West’s prologue to Black Lamb and Grey Falcon is intricately political, though it is connected by a bloody thread of gory violence and passionate drama. Rulers beget rulers, terrorists slay those rulers, families fight each other, and West verbally obliterates most of them with her–I have to say–relentlessly savage insults. Any of the following alone are enough to warrant a ‘hands on cheeks, mouth wide open’ reaction: 

  • “She was a great slut” (6) 

  • “She was always thrusting the blunt muzzle of her stupidity into conclaves of state, treading down intelligent debate as a beast treads down the grass at a gate into mud” (6) 

  • “[she was] a very fat and plain little girl” (7) 

  • “His face is sucked too close to the bone by sickness to be tranquil or even handsome” (15) 

Together, they show an author not withholding her biases, an author willing to simply state the ways things look (to her, of course). In this vein, dismembered fingers, thrusted stilettos, and bullets in a crowd all converge to the prologue’s climax: the assassination of the King of Yugoslavia. Yet in West’s poetic descriptions of the king’s murder, which she watches countless times through the medium of film, she constructs an especially telling and absurdist image with her same characteristically candid quips. After “innumerable hands'' fondle the dying king, the camera catches a royal official fleeing the scene. In the official’s hasty exit, West recalls the “special ridiculousness of middle-aged men, who have the sagging, anxious faces and protruding bellies appropriate to pregnancies” (West 15), and while this absolutely merciless diss is damaging enough to envision gifs like “supa hot fire,” her forthright opinions in juxtaposition to aforementioned murders (coupled with a cinemographic record) deromanticize this particular violent moment. In other words, West’s propensity to ‘end people’s whole career,’ per se, works to de-deify the situation. The king himself is tired, the assassin is sloppy (and promptly beaten to death by the crowd), and the royal accompaniment looks like fat, pregnant old men. West philosophizes that “It would be a superb ending for a comic film” (15), yet it is West’s paradoxically comedic descriptions in contrast to the senseless violence that elevate this scene to the genre of absurdity. It’s funny and sad, sensible and senseless, and serious and stupid. West recognizes these contradictions; the reader (in retrospect) can, too. West’s blunt but amusing honesty positions the reader in the same contradictory space as the king. And like Hitchens posits in the introduction, through these tensions–in this absurdity–one can feel the next lingering, unnecessary irrationality: “the shadow of the encroaching swastika” (Hitchens xxxvi).