Have you ever been to a concert which ends with a short time of silence before the crowd starts clapping? This is how I felt after I finished the last page of Here the Dark by David Bergen.
It is a wondrous experience, due to the fact, I believe, that the audience or reader are stunned by the grace or beauty or sheer ingenuity of the music and musicians – or in this case the gift of the writer.
Bergen is the author of many novels and short stories, often shortlisted for Canadian literary awards. His novel Time In Between won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2005. He was raised as a Mennonite and has claimed that writing is his way of figuring things out or “if you can’t ask certain questions in church maybe you can ask them in fiction.”
His latest creation is comprised of seven short stories ending with an extraordinary novella entitled Here the Dark. To say the each work is imbued with sex and religion, love and sadness is an understatement.
Most of the stories tell of bewildered and lost men who are gripped by a narrative of what it means to be a certain kind of man. Alcohol, stupid sexual innuendo and isolation. Now and then, touching encounters enable these men to find some joy in their lives. It is here where there is beauty and revelation.
But the novella begins with a very young girl named Lily who was born into a religious community. She too is lonely because life in her Brethren Church was “defined by the word No." No high school, no dancing, no clothes that other girls wear, and, most importantly, no books.
Lily was led by her own imagination and flourishing sexuality. She couldn’t promise to give her life to Jesus and so was shunned by all, including her husband. Because Bergen is such an astute and generous writer he is able to give Lily the precious gift of a full and rich character and it will be a long time before I forget her.
Here the Dark is a perfect title. Bergen’s hallowed writing also lets you hear the dark. You can come to understand that it whispers in our souls and sometimes shouts in our ears – if you let it. But it can also step aside and make way for the light that is there also.