Change Edition

Pure Colour: a philosophical fable that's hard to put down
Book review

Pure Colour: a philosophical fable that's hard to put down

by Natalia PIKNA 24.03.2023
The descriptions create such vivid images it is impossible to dismiss them
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Pure Colour by Canadian author Sheila Heti is a psychological and philosophical fable, one that is profoundly touching and not too far gone from our own reality.

It is the sort of book you will want to go back to, the sort you will need to go back to.  

“After God created the heavens and the earth, he stood back to contemplate creation, like a painter standing back from the canvas,” it begins, and this conceit of a first draft of existence continues throughout the book.

A few pages later, we are introduced to our protagonist Mira, a bird-type person as we learn, and her relationship with her Dad, a bear-type person. She then meets and falls in love with Annie, a fish-type person. Even this typology of people feels deeply existential, beyond the psychological.

Mira's life moves on slowly and when her father dies her grief brings her back to him within the confines of a leaf. Out of nowhere, we are on another plane of existence, exploring life from the point of view of a vegetal sentient being. The author manages to pull this off without losing the reader. By this point in the book, it feels only natural.

The narrator flips back between focusing on Mira’s life, which seems to be the micro level of existence, and then zooming out. Mira’s experiences are usually the jumping-off point for wider contemplation. A passage about her friends, for instance, leads to a reflection on the nature of friendships in general. “Can we say that friendships were different then?” asks the narrator - then ostensibly calling to a time pre-internet, pre-social media and instant communication.

At times the reader questions why the universe is the way it is. “A person can waste their whole life, without even meaning to, all because another person has a really great face. Did God think of this when he was making the world? Why didn’t he give everyone the exact same face?” asks the narrator.

The reader comes across musings about life and all its aspects, from art to art criticism, birth to death, and the seeming meaninglessness of existence. Intense metaphors and similes are peppered along the pages, making the images so vivid it is impossible to dismiss them.

The Luxembourg Times has a new mobile app, download here! Get the Luxembourg Times delivered to your inbox twice a day. Sign up for your free newsletters here.