Motorman – David Ohle

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Originally published in 1972, Motorman, the fascinating story of young Moldenke in his futuristic and apocalyptic world, went out of print very quickly, relegating its distribution to the underground world of photocopies for more than thirty years. In spite of that, the book has been read by hundreds of enthusiasts, turning the author into a cult figure.

William Burroughs, Ohle’s long-time collaborator, coined the term CONTROL to designate the theological trinity of government, financial power and media. He postulated that given that words, used in their syntactic familiarity, constitute a mechanism to perpetuate the obedience to said trinity, it is necessary for literature to disentangle itself from this function by speaking in a schizoid, allegorical and misfit language that would gradually start to reveal all its ideological strata. The result of his ideas was this extraordinary and unusual novel of dystopic colours in which people lead unsavoury lives under a sky full of artificial moons and suns, birds with tongues so long that they have to wrap them around their brains to be able to pull them in; and citizens with their heads full of jelly and raving (as well as beautiful) meteorological/radio phonic parts. All of these elements together imbue Ohle’s novel with the best of the fantasy genre: from Bruno Schulz to Gombrowicz, Felisberto Hernández to Virgilio Piñera, Huxley to Orwell, Kafka to Walser . . . including names so different at first glance as Beckett (The Unnamable) or Heller (Catch 22).

Many readers also consider Motorman to be the best novel about the Vietnam war, ever written. Nothing about that time is mentioned in Motorman: not a single reference, not a single hint. In spite of that, Motorman manages to depict the political climate of that time in all its complexities.

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