In Justin Torres' Blackouts, which won the 2023 National Book Award for Fiction, the central character, Juan Gay, twice refers to "the release of the want of the want of release." In the first instance, the narrator reminds the dying Juan of a conversation they had had many years ago:

"By the age of forty, you said, you'd been relieved of libido altogether."

"And did you understand?"

"Not then, no. The words I understood, sure, but not how you meant them."

"The release of the want of the want of release. Though, as it turns out, libido was the last defense I had."

Torres, Justin. Blackouts. New York: Farrar, Straus, 2023. p. 36.

Later, Juan asks the narrator about the latter's suicide attempt:

"Well, what did you think the pills were for? A cure?"

"No, Juan, I don't think I ever believed that. I guess I believed they were to annihilate some dark awareness. Make it easier to live in an uncomfortable world."

"To be released of the want of the want of release."

ibid., p. 126.

Since want can mean both desire and lack, the expression relase of the want of the want of release is confusing to me. What does Juan mean? The phrase probably is intentionally ambiguous, but I would be grateful for its meaning(s) being unpacked, particularly as they relate to the novel as a whole.


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