Critical Analysis-Poetess Sarwat Hina

Exploring the Depths of Ligor Stafa’s “Self-Portrait” through the Lens of Symbolism and Psychological


In the vast tapestry of modern literature, few works stand out as distinctly as Ligor Stafa’s “Self-Portrait.” The collection of tales in this book weaves intricate layers of symbolism, esoteric themes, and profound psychological explorations. Stafa’s writing, rich with surrealism and deeply influenced by philosophical and psychoanalytical traditions, invites readers to embark on a journey into the labyrinthine corridors of the human psyche. In this exploration, we find parallels with Mark Simoni’s essay “Strange Literature,” where he delves into the nature of Stafa’s narrative style and its place within the broader spectrum of literary traditions.

The Symbolic Universe of “Self-Portrait”

Stafa’s “Self-Portrait” is not merely a collection of stories; it is a foray into the subconscious and the symbolic. The titles of his stories, such as “Barking on Command” and “The Mouse’s Manuscripts,” immediately capture the reader’s imagination, suggesting a world where the mundane is intertwined with the mysterious and the surreal. These titles serve as a gateway to a deeper understanding of human experiences and the underlying forces that shape them. Simoni notes that these extravagant titles are the essence of the tales themselves, offering more than just a glimpse into the narrative but serving as a reflection of the complex themes Stafa explores.

The narratives are steeped in rich symbolism and metaphor, reminiscent of the literary styles of Kafka and Buzzati. Simoni aptly describes Stafa’s work as resonant with “signs, subtexts, metaphors, and alchemical symbols,” creating an atmosphere thick with meaning and reflective of the existential and psychological depths of his characters. This aligns with the tradition of Kafkaesque literature, where the ordinary becomes a canvas for exploring profound and often unsettling aspects of human existence.

Psychological and Philosophical Underpinnings

Simoni’s comparison of Stafa to both Freudian and Nietzschean traditions is particularly illuminating. Stafa’s characters are often portrayed in states of psychological turmoil, grappling with their deepest fears, desires, and existential dilemmas. This exploration of the subconscious and the internal conflicts of the ego and superego is quintessentially Freudian. Simoni observes that Stafa’s work probes “the motives of the individual beyond mere consciousness,” suggesting a deep dive into the unconscious mind and the forces that govern human behavior.

On the other hand, the subtle critique of morality and the exploration of individualism in Stafa’s stories echo Nietzschean themes. Nietzsche’s philosophy often challenges conventional moralities and explores the idea of the “Übermensch” or “Overman,” someone who transcends societal norms and creates their own values. Stafa’s narratives frequently place his characters in situations where they must confront and redefine their moral compass, echoing Nietzsche’s call for a reevaluation of values and the embrace of personal empowerment.

Literary Context and Stylistic Innovation

Simoni’s essay also places Stafa within a broader literary context, drawing parallels to Borges’ “Inquisitions” and the lineage of “Pre-Kafkaesque” writers. Borges, known for his intricate and intellectually stimulating stories, often delved into themes of infinity, labyrinths, and the nature of reality. Stafa’s work, with its complex symbolism and exploration of the human condition, fits comfortably within this tradition. The comparison underscores the innovative nature of Stafa’s storytelling, which requires a reader who is not only attuned to recognizing symbols and codes but also skilled in deciphering the layers of meaning embedded within his narratives.

Simoni suggests that Stafa’s prose demands a unique reading style, one that goes beyond surface-level interpretation and engages deeply with the text’s philosophical and psychological dimensions. This aligns with the tradition of hermetic literature, which is characterized by its dense symbolism and the need for an esoteric understanding. Stafa’s stories are not easily accessible; they challenge the reader to engage actively with the text, to unravel its mysteries, and to reflect on its deeper meanings.

The Essence of Ligor Stafa’s Literary Contributions

The profound impact of Stafa’s “Self-Portrait” on modern literature lies in its ability to merge the psychological and the symbolic in a way that is both captivating and thought-provoking. Simoni’s essay highlights how Stafa’s work brings a “completely different energy and style” to contemporary prose, infusing it with a richness and complexity that honors the traditions of Kafka and Borges while also carving out a distinctive place for itself.

In comparison to Simoni’s “Strange Literature,” which explores the broader themes and stylistic elements in Stafa’s work, “Self-Portrait” can be seen as a practical embodiment of these ideas. Where Simoni discusses the theoretical underpinnings and the literary significance of Stafa’s approach, the stories themselves serve as vivid illustrations of these concepts in action. They are a testament to Stafa’s ability to translate deep philosophical and psychological insights into compelling narratives that resonate with readers on multiple levels.

In conclusion, Ligor Stafa’s “Self-Portrait” is a masterful exploration of the human psyche and the symbolic undercurrents that shape our experiences. Through his intricate storytelling and rich use of symbolism, Stafa invites readers to delve into the depths of human consciousness, to confront the mysteries of existence, and to engage with literature in a way that is profoundly transformative. Simoni’s essay provides a valuable framework for understanding the significance of Stafa’s work, highlighting its place within a tradition of literary innovation and its unique contribution to contemporary storytelling.

Poetess Sarwat Hina

Pen Name Hina Manzar