Like everything Cormac McCarthy has ever written, No Country for Old Men
is a masterpiece of American literature that is so profound, so spartanly poetic and so layered that it's worthy of re-reading a million times over. McCarthy captures the harsh, but beautiful soul of the pioneer country that is so unforgiving it's been the death of thousands for generations. Yet we're still attracted to it. Its violence evolves, stamping each new generation with scars that cut past the superficial layers we convince ourselves are the heart of our lives - the materialism and acquisitive culture that brands everything - to reveal what is quintessential about the human condition. The country brands those who belong to it and those people carry those marks with them even if they manage to escape its clutches and find refuge in more favorable lands. This much has always been true of what McCarthy writes and fans of the Border Trilogy and Blood Merridian
will find themselves in familiar territory with Old Men
. I myself am drawn to it over and over again - but this time, there's something new; there's an added bonus right up my alley, because you see, No Country for Old Men
is a book about fate and destiny. Get past the violence and greed and there's an underlying pattern unfolding and at work that, ironically, only the most violent and ruthless character in the novel seems to be able to see and acknowledge. And it's awesome.
Llewelyn Moss chances upon the aftermath of a drug deal gone horribly wrong in the middle of the Texas desert and comes into quite a bit of funds. He's gotten away with it, and to the best of his knowledge could walk with the money with no one the wiser, but conscience is a bitch. Drawn back to the scene of the crime in an effort to comfort a dying man, Llewelyn finds himself shoved down the path the universe laid out for him from the moment of his birth, though like the rest of us he's painfully unaware of what's in store for him. No Country
is a criss-crossing tale that intertwines the lives of Moss, the local Sheriff, Ed Tom (a man desperately finding a way to cope with the changes he's witnessing in the world around him) and Mr. Anton Chigurh, a hitman in the employ of the cartels who probably enjoys his job just a little to much, but has a completely insightful and awesome philosophical side that more than makes up for that particular character defect.No Country
is a novel about the irrepressible tides of change, the inevitability of that change (on both a large and small scale in the lives of both country and individual), and more traditional, but no less well-developed or interesting, notions of good and evil. McCarthy is a bit more heavy-handed with his moral judgments and it's fairly obvious that the voice of Sheriff Bell is the voice of McCarthy himself. It's inherently traditional and conservative, but in the genteel fashion that rings of the common sense and practical know-how that enabled Texans to adapt to that particular country and survive it for as long as they have. There is some damn poetic dialogue in this novel that simply takes your breath away with its enormity and significance - pure brilliance encapsulated in terse sentences that defy traditional grammatical convention, which is the hallmark of McCarthy's style.
I love this book. I love its wisdom. I love its people. Not characters. People.
On a related note, I just had to rewatch the Coen brothers' adaptation and I have to say that after reading the novel, I was even more impressed with what they managed to do with the story in film. It's probably one of the best and faithful (in terms of tone, theme and content) novel to film translations of all time.