Trust by Hernan Diaz

I was gifted Trust by a friend. I never would have read the book otherwise. It would not have come my way.

Hernan Diaz has invented authors for the quartet of books that comprise Trust. The first “book” Bonds, is a novel by a “Harold Vanner”. The title “Bonds” is as double-valent as “Trust”, the name of the book you are reading, is overall. For “Bonds” can refer to human relations but can also connote a financial instrument. The same for “Trust”. Yes, it can refer to the confidence we may have in others, but it can also mean a financial instrument or represent a financial institution that manipulates money.

There’s something satanic about mathematics in Trust. And especially, the application of math to manipulate money. Reminded me of Thomas Mann in Doctor Faustus where a gifted composer seems to make a deal with the devil to have an illustrious career, via the manipulation of music through mathematics. An air of damnation hovers over the financiers in Trust.

The friend who gifted me this book said it was “very Dreiser”. Regrettably, I haven’t read Dreiser, although one of Litbreak’s contributors discusses him eloquently. I made a note to follow-up with Dreiser later in the year. We each react to the books we read based on our previous experiences in reading. So, I am citing Mann and my friend, Dreiser. The same book can seem to have a different shading depending on one’s reading history. Still another way for literature and reading to feel enriching.

As for Harold Vanner, the author of the novel Bonds (within Trust) we never learn much about him. Perhaps because the author of the second book within Trust, which is a memoir called My Life, a feeble reach for a hagiography, has tried to eradicate Harold Vanner from literature. This would be attempted writer Andrew Bevel, a fabulously successful investor, who by manipulating the stock market in the 1920’s, perhaps fraudulently, got rich by contributing to the ruin of everyone else in the Great Crash of 1929. I say attempted writer because it seems that his memoir was never completed. There are telling gaps in the text of the manuscript. (which you as the reader of Trust can see)

You need to get over halfway through Trust before you can hear a woman’s story from her own pen. This is deliberately stultifying. The women in the first half of Trust, the spouse of the fictional financier in Bonds and Andrew Bevel’s wife in the unfinished My Life, are treated like appendages of their husbands. Even the patronizing way that they are praised is deeply disturbing. They are trivialized by mock respect.

When we arrive at the third part of Trust: A Memoir, Remembered by Ida Partenza, it felt like a glacier being cracked open. Here was a woman with her own voice, and what she has to say overturns your understanding of all you have read before.

The fourth and final section is Futures (another double-edged word) by Mildred Bevel, the spouse of Andrew Bevel, a remarkable woman who has been sanitized to death in Andrew Bevel’s memoir. As I read through this final section, I experienced that rare quality of dignity and spirit on account of…finally…hearing a human being talk without an agenda being imposed upon them by others. Trust is a rare and choice exercise in literary mastery in which the form of the book is as eloquent as its content.

Finally, at the conclusion of Trust, a woman emerges despite all attempts to bury and co-opt her.