His heart revives nine minutes later, but while ‘dead’ he becomes aware of the literal reality of Heaven and Hell. So much so, that Harry thinks his return to life is actually an entry into Hell. This opens the Peter Carey floodgates of satire.
Harry discovers his wife Bettina’s infidelity, his son David’s drift toward drug dealing, his daughter Lucy’s Communist quirks twisted with touches of sibling incest, and is convinced their toxic behaviour confirms they are all also captives of Hell, trying to please those who are in charge of the Underworld. So Harry curses his family and moves into the Hilton, where he meets Honey Barbara.
When he returns to work at his advertising agency, Harry purges the evil, discarding clients with such unrepentant vigour, he is committed to a mental asylum. But it’s not long before Harry is released from the asylum. When he and Honey Barbara return to Harry’s family home to cleanse it of Hell, there are many unexpected revelations and reversals.
There is an idealistic escape from urban phobias, sharing the energy of Honey, into a hippie rainforest nirvana, where Harry explores his final fable of holism, tree-worship, and vegetarianism. As Harry drifts again into oblivion, there is much to feel sorry for, and much to smile about, in his mangled analysis of the contemporary capitalist world’s paradoxes.
BLISS runs until 15 July
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