Il new essay by Marco Maculotti, published by Mimesis, allows you to cross the threshold of the lost city, to orient yourself among the symbols and references hidden behind the first season of “True Detective”.
In an era in which the production of TV series is continuous, even suffocating, there are few that lend themselves to being analyzed in depth. The first season of T is one of them. That the serial of Nic Pizzolatto is structured on a profound philosophical-literary basis since 2014 many have understood it. Yet few have dared to enter it. Marco Maculottifounder of AXIS Mundi and collaborator of numerous editorial projects, he has set himself this challenge with Carcosa unveiled. Notes for an esoteric reading of True Detective (Mimesis, 2020).
Revealing Carcosa, through a profound study of the mysteries that gravitate around it, deepening the symbols, influences and references (more or less explicit) present in Pizzolatto's work. Maculotti speaks of notes, but his work is much more: thirteen chapters, divided into three parts and accompanied by the disturbing illustrations of Marco Sabbatani, able to transport the reader into the lost city and into the minds of its main characters. A reading to be done in one breath, as if you were participating in a ritual or watching a TV series. There will then be time to return to the individual parts, underline the internal references and outline new connections.
The structure of the book is organic, well articulated, but also surprising. Talking about T, the first part might have been expected to focus on Thomas Ligotti, the American writer who was the director's main inspiration. Instead Maculotti amazes, starting from the ties of the series with real and socially relevant facts. Let's talk about parallels between the Swamp Sect and Bohemian grove Californian, between the "place where rich men go to worship the devil" and the cases of crime that occurred before the release of the serial, between T and other film products, from Rosemary's Baby by Roman Polanski a Eyes Wide Shut by Stanley Kubrick. A chilling first chapter, which presents the narrative substratum and raises disturbing questions about reality.
From here the narration continues following two complementary strands: one fantastic-literary and another mythical-philosophical. The first is dealt with in the second part. Here Maculotti traces the origins of Carcosa, the lost city mentioned for the first time by Ambrose Bierce in his 1885 account An Inhabitant of Carcosa and ten years later from Robert W. Chambers in his famous collection The King in Yellow. Precisely in the story that opens the work, the narrator introduces the cursed volume, which he cannot get rid of, with these words:
I read and reread those pages and cried, laughed and shivered in a horror that sometimes still assails me today. And this is what disturbs me, because I cannot forget Carcosa, where black stars shine in the sky and where the shadows of men's thoughts lengthen in the afternoon, where the twin Suns sink into Lake Hali: my mind will always keep the memory of the Pale Mask.
Elements that we find, in a reworked form, in T. Both in the stories by Bierce and Chambers and in the Pizzolatto series, Maculotti underlines how «whoever experiences Carcosa during a vision [...] seems suddenly led mentally to a preter-existence outside of time, the memory of which causes a real emotional trauma ». A form of madness derived from an ecstatic experience, as irresistible as it is terrifying.
In addition to the two authors of the late nineteenth century, the discussion ranges between the innumerable literary connections with the mythopoeic universe derived from the lost city. In this sense, the masters of the fantastic are recalled, among others Howard Phillips Lovecraft e Abraham Merritt, but it is in the relationship with The great god Pan by Arthur Machen (of which Maculotti is a great connoisseur) that the analysis is particularly subtle. The ecstatic madness derived from the King in Yellow Chambers's would be comparable, in fact, to protoplasmic regression due to the vision of Machen's Pan: both experiences that lead to the physical and psychic decay of the unfortunate beneficiaries. In T the theme is revived in the last chapter, when Rust Cohle reveals his colleague Martin Hart abysmal descent during coma:
There was a moment when I began to slip into darkness. It was as if I had become an unconscious being with a vague consistency in the dark and felt that consistency vanish. Underneath the darkness was another darkness, a darkness that was deeper, warmer. It was as if it were tangible.
A testimony that recalls a passage from the Bread and the atmospheres of Yellow Book. An otherworldly journey in which space-time dimensions are contaminated, until they are canceled out. After all, as Maculotti claims
time is a flat circle: the more inscrutable past and the even less predictable future merge by virtue of strange occult mechanisms, to the point that the first shapes the second by infusing it with its curses, and vice versa.
It is precisely in reference to the conception of time, and consequently to the meaning of life, which is the third and last part of the work. These are the pages with the most mythical-philosophical themes, to which the last chapters of the first part are linked. As a scholar of anthropological issues and religious practices, Maculotti notes the multiplicity of references that are hidden behind the symbols used by Pizzolatto: from spiral deer Horn, from maze to the crown.
Within this symbolic universe, two paths are particularly interesting. The first is the identification between Errol Childress and the green man, or the personification of wild nature in the European tradition, through the reference to various studies, including the Essay on Pan of the Jungian psychoanalyst james hillman. The manifestation of the primitive and dark part in civilized man, the shadow Jungian, can lead to the creation of a personal and peripheral Carcosa: "Just the emergence of this terrifying" shadow ", which Childress drags along after decades of abuse, plunges him into an ideal world not yet civilized, wild, panic, in which he can give free rein to his antisocial impulses ».
The second is the juxtaposition between the King in Yellow and Cernunnus, the ancient divinity venerated by different populations, a symbol of both rebirth and revenge of the primeval nature against the advancement of civilization. The ritual iconography of T, presented from the first chapter with the corpse of Dora Lange, offers more than one reason for this parallelism.
Finally, there is Ligots. The cosmic pessimism of the American writer (inherited from that of Lovecraft) dwells in the mind of Rust Cohle. The protagonist's worldview it is permeated by the idea of an inevitable return of the same, in which humanity is condemned to repeat its mistakes indefinitely, as emerges from his numerous monologues. After the discovery of the two children on the Ledoux estate, she states:
I don't want to know anything more. In this world nothing can be solved. Someone once told me that life is a flat circle. Everything we have done or will do, we will be forced to repeat it again, and again, and again. And that little boy and that little girl will still be in that room, over and over and over. Forever.
Ancient myths (from the Ouroboros to Kronos, from Yama to Kāla Rudra) and contemporary philosophers (Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer ed Emil cioran) are taken up by Maculotti to reinforce the inevitability of time and the perennial dissatisfaction with life. How do you remark Mircea eliade: "We are distressed because we have just discovered who we are, not mortal in the abstract sense of the syllogism, but dying, on the verge of dying as relentlessly devoured by time". For Ligotti, and therefore for Cohle, within the devouring time human beings are nothing but puppets endowed with conscience and therefore destined to suffer.
Yet, in the epilogue of the series, Rust offers Marty another vision of things. After touching death and going back to tell it, the protagonist becomes the bearer of a more positive conception of life in which, in the millennial conflict between light and darkness, the former is triumphing over the latter:
And it is precisely, in Rust's interiority, the revelation of this eternal truth, following the near-death experience, that leads him on another path, less nihilistic and more aimed at considering the journey of life from a point of view "Sacral", exceeding the singularity of the conscience of the human individual in a perspective of absolute understanding, based on the awareness of a transcendental conflict that concerns the whole anima mundi on its way to the definitive Liberation.
Thus, at the end of his enveloping book, Maculotti crowns Rust Cohle as King of the New Year: one contemporary shaman who has been able to defeat the dark forces embodied by Childress and the Swamp Sect, at least for the moment. In the incessant cosmic struggle between Good and Evil, human beings just have to do their part, in the knowledge that not everything depends on them. Accept life as a cruel game and rejoice because, after all, death is not the end.