The protagonist of The Trion Syndrome, Dave Bell, is a professor of German, a language he speaks as well as English—his mother was a German war bride. He specializes in the writings of the German author Thomas Mann (one of my favorite writers) and finds an unpublished Mann story based on the Trion myth which I quoted in yesterday’s blog. From the novel:
“This story, more than any other of Mann’s, touched Dave’s soul. Trion Kretzschmar’s struggle between his desire for dominance and his craving for love, his horror when he finds that he cannot love, the climax when he sends his son to his death, his sickening suicide by drowning—all of it lived inside Dave’s skin. ‘Evil has no understanding of love,’ the old exorcist tells Trion, but was Trion really evil? He just settled for less than he could have. He chose dominance over love. Or maybe his evil was camouflaged by its banality, as Arendt had said of Eichmann. Maybe he sold his soul for dominance. Mann’s ambiguity, Trion’s ‘questionable’ motives.
“So many similarities with Mann’s Doktor Faustus. The name Kretzschmar—the same name he used in Faustus—the issue of the evil being unable to love, the equivocation, dependence on a myth as the basis for the story. The best guess was that Mann put aside Trion and rewrote, ending up with Faustus.”
The story of Trion haunts Dave, but he doesn’t know why. At the same time, he struggles with murky and incomplete memories of a clandestine mission in Vietnam. Dave senses a connection between the myth and his vague recollections. And he finds it chilling that he shares with Trion a fear of water and what he perceives as an inability to love. Did something he did in Vietnam make him evil?