Les Yeux (the eyes) is author Robert Michael Congemi’s ninth book. Its theme is a modern one, the existentialist’s assertion that other people’s conceptions of us, so often reductive and hurtful, if not devastating, constitute a kind of hell. Going beyond expressing this theme only in fiction, Congemi demonstrates it in the two other principal literary genres—drama and poetry. Nor is the phenomenon of the eyes limited to what is done to us. We are guilty of it ourselves. As Congemi says in his book’s epigraph:
“The eyes, that second hell, which pin us down with their own perceptions. How we must struggle against this further Absurdity, consider our own misunderstandings!”
The author of Les Yeux pursues this theme in a variety of ways. Some of his writing focuses on our misconceptions of the poor, those beneath often comfortable and unchallenged bourgeois mentality. Other work traces his theme as it manifests itself with regard to those who are significantly different from ourselves or above us in social level and victims of our self-protecting stereotypes. A notable thematic variation is depicted in his writing that clarifies the identity of the traumatized, a reality often very far from our customary understanding. Still further variations provoke us to reconsider those who are most close to us or to uncover the invalidity of self-deception. In the eponymous story of Les Yeux, Congemi demonstrates, as if working through a theorem, the truth about this threat of arbitrary opinion and general viewpoint.
Finally, the author invites us to a transvaluation of our sense of the past, particularly our own.