In the award-winning novel, Floyd Salas examines an unsettling chapter in recent history, when idealism was pitted against a totalitarian mentality that cloaked democracy in hypocrisy. The result is both a philosophical and a psychological thriller with profound implications for our time.
Set in the 1960s, the era of campus revolts, war protests, drugs and free love, State of Emergency follows the odyssey of Roger, a radical professor attempting to write an exposé of government endeavors to corrupt and co-opt the student protest movement and silence dissidents like him. Pursued by agents who would still his pen and accompanied by Penny, his long-suffering lover, he heads for Europe and northern Africa to find refuge in the counter-culture of various countries. Everywhere he turns, shadows lurk that threaten to destroy him both emotionally and physically, and which challenge his love with Penny. Are the dangers real or an imaginary symptom of the paranoia created by the political and social upheavals of the 1960s?
Salas was awarded the 1997 PEN Oakland Literary Censorship Award for State of Emergency in recognition of the fact that the controversial subject matter of the book resulted in subtle forms of pre- and post-censorship, including suppression of the book for twenty years and failure by the publisher to publicize and market it following publication. The PEN Oakland’s Literary Censorship Award honors exceptional works of literature and/or literary endeavor that, due to their controversial nature, are subject to commercial or political suppression.
—Ishmael Reed, author of Mumbo Jumbo, The Last Days of Louisiana Red and Flight to Canada
—Rudolfo Anaya, author of Bless Me, Ultima and Albuquerque
—Gerald Nicosia, author of Memory Babe and Home to War
—Peter Dale Scott, author of Jakarta: A Poem About Terror and The Death of JFK
—John Koopman, Contra Costa Times
His hands felt as if they were melting together with the hash pipe, finger to knuckle to pipe stem to mouth tip to rim, and even the smoke curling mysteriously up from it looked like a flute trill he could hear from the full moon party in the distance.
A heightened sense of being came over him. He could feel it in his head, way up high at the top of his brain where a dizziness came over him, swept over his body, seemed to shorten his breathing, make him nauseous, separate him from his body, from his hands now holding the pipe far below him, from his knees and feet, too, so close yet so far away, as if under another light. The earthen floor at his feet was like a faded print of some impressionistic painting. The slight rises and hollows had a floating quality, like vaporous cloudy hills hovering over some rural landscape, medieval almost, which he walked over from a great distance, like some giant, as he made his way slowly, carefully, arms slightly spread for balance, towards the door of the adobe house, to get outside into the fresh air.
He seemed to drop a yard before he touched the hardpacked earth outside and had to brace one arm against the door jamb to stay up, then take deep breaths to keep the nausea down. He tried to stop the dizziness by focusing his eyes on the deep blue Mediterranean Sea under the moon, the ink blue sea.
He could see the sea in the other direction, too, between two low buildings, with pale clothes on the roof, with fences on them like iron bars. He could see the moon glimmering like a silky ribbon on the sea.
The moon was phosphorescent, a low molten fire. Even the flat fields of the low island were silvered by it.
A coolness came over the farmland, darkened with a cloud passing over the moon, creating hollows like rolling hills.
Moonbeams passed through the shadow of darkness and quivered on his chest like leaves. A lighthouse blinked every other second or so on the dark sea beyond. He could hear dawn coming with a hum, a quiet shhhh in his head. He could hear water run: shhhhhhhhh. He stood there tingling, pipe still in hand. He hadn’t moved one muscle since he had stepped outside. He heard voices from the party and some girl’s name ending with a soft awww. He could hear his own voice, coming from some place away from him. He could hear it speak and the tones were urgent but calm: “I’ve got to keep a clear head or I’ll get busted. I’ve got to be able to see everything coming down around me, every gesture, every flicker of an eyelash, cross of an expression on a face. I’ve got to stay on top of it. Anne Marie is probably a plant. How could she dig me so much so soon? Robey could be playing any kind of game. I’ve got to stay on top of it! I’ve got to keep sharp and stay free and alive to finish this book! I’ve got to!”