The Insomnia of Masters, Slaves, Others

Idolatry. Fable in fable.

Max and the Cats. Moacyr Scliar.

The third person narrator provides a short aside about a secondary character. It is an aside that is analogous to the way in which the reader-writer relationship is fashioned in this text. Due to its discomfiting nature there is a certain amount of resistance in identifying with elements of the story.

Dr. Rudolf was an extraordinary erudite man. [...] A self-taught psychoanalyst, he was well versed in the doctrines of Dr. Freud, with whom his father had worked in Vienna. He became interested in Max's accounts of Professor Kunz's researches, and he told Max about his own experiments with Brazilian Indians. He would gather the whole tribe together and tell them stories. One such story was about a young craftsman named Ego, who made marvellous dolls, and his tormentors: Id, a foulmouthed, hairy dwarf (a creature somewhat like the curupira, the bogeyman of the Brazilian forests — a mythical Indian with feet pointed backwards); and Super Ego, an aristocratic and authoritarian master. [...] One of the Indians, an imaginative sculptor, carved in wood the figures of Ego, Id, and Super Ego, which reinforced the therapeutic effect of the narratives. Young Indian males afflicted with infinite sadness, and hysterical Indian girls would heal themselves by making propitiatory offerings to those idols.
The reader, perhaps like Max "would listen to those accounts with interest mingled with a certain uneasiness." Not because of the naive account of the Indians but because "[h]e, too, regarded himself as being a kind of Ego, he, too, kept tossing and turning in bed at night, unable to fall asleep [...]" And like a dream the story and its implied analogy passes, never to surface again. Yet its wake reverberates with questions of interpretation. Stories. Figures. Offerings. The order presented in the narration also works in reverse for it is an offering to the reader of three figures (Ego, Id, Super Ego) that comes to constitute a story within a story and a somewhat dazzling set of reflections.

And so for day 1350