“Raping had become too easy in Guatemala…I wanted to debase a white girls who was liberated, unsubmissive, intellectual, and beautiful.”
– Suddenly the Minotaur, p36
So declares Mino Torres from a Canadian prison in this award winning debut novel from Quebec writer, Marie Helene Poitras. Suddenly the Minotaur is a slim but potent two part story; the first half from the point of view of a serial rapist and the second from the victim that obsesses him, the “one that got away”
In the first half of the book poetic phrases are spun through the bared teeth of the predator, Torres, as he recounts his life history and philosophy. He uses the same charm and deception that perpetuates the illusion to his family that he has made it good in Canada to rationalize the justification of his many (twenty) rapes.
“I’m driven to do what I do by nature. My impulses come from the center of the earth. In a given space, prey and predator move around nonchalantly.”
His crude analogy, “One dumb broad was watching tortugas leaving the sea to lay their eggs on the beach. In a bathing suit, with her long legs. Alone in the dark at night. I call that an official invitation to rape. A gazelle that cuddles against a lion’s ass to sleep and is surprised to wake up being eaten”
Torres points out that he is not without morals. He would never rape a pregnant woman. And he takes care that his beautiful wife, who surely would be a target for rape, does not venture out of the apartment without him.
His account of life before prison keeps winding back to his recurrent thoughts of Ariane. She was different, she fought back and he almost killed her. Torres obsessively imagines a relationship with her, that they have a connection beyond that of victim and prey.
Ariane’s account is no less poetic but in the manner of one’s life interrupted by an unimaginable event, her thoughts are a mixture: a blend of the confident, independent University student she was before the attempted rape and that of being overwhelmingly fearful in a way that keeps surprising her by its persistence.
Her vivid recounting of the attack and the aftermath is metered out in pieces between the events of her solo, soul-testing trip to Europe. “…I try to distract my five senses, so they’ll forget what was done to them.” She finds in her visit to Dachau prison camp in Germany a place of suffering and odd public reactions that can finally eclipse her own. “Everything here left me with an impression of poorly coagulated healing, of fractured irony.”
While Ms. Poitras’ story is disturbing on many levels (the rationale of a serial rapist, the brutal description of attacks, and the pain of victims) what sticks are the unsettling implications that seep in. An unassuming rapist could be anywhere, back woods South America or cosmopolitan Canada…sitting on your bus, watching you or your sister or your mother…getting off at your stop, walking behind you…or waiting for you a day later in the back of your closet.
Real monsters in fiction…those are the scariest.