Derik Badman's Journal

2020-03-08 13:04

Watched Celine Sciamma's Water Lilies, her first full length film, the other morning. Unlike Portrait of a Lady on Fire it has a contemporary setting with younger characters, but like it, it a story about desire and attraction, in particular between, in this case, 3 women. I quite enjoyed it, though I don't know I have much to say about it that wouldn't just be summarizing the narrative.

Last night I finished up my reread of Gene Wolfe's Soldier of the Mist, the first part of his series about Latro, a soldier in the Ancient Greek world who has been cursed to not remember anything. The whole book is his (with one exception) writings that he keeps of the events that happen to him as a memory aid. I really enjoyed my first read through of the series, and have been meaning to reread.

The rich historical setting makes use of the mythology of the ancient world in a rather realistic way. The dieties exist and are powerful, mysterious, awe-inspiring. They have many names and aspects which aids in the mystery and is increased by the way Latro sees them with fresh eyes each time. The whole narrative is one of mystery and elision. We only read what Latro writes after the fact, so we can only know what he says, not necessarily what is true, especially since each time he writes he mostly only knows what is happening and what others tell him of the past. He cannot easily make connections between events or characters. That can often lead to the reader having to work to remember who someone is based on non-obvious information.

Also, between each chapter there can be an unknowable gap of time. Sometimes it is obviously the next day, or even later the same day. Sometimes he remembers far enough back (from morning to night or one night to the next morning) that he can contextualize the gap, but sometimes time passes in silence and emptiness and we must learn a new situation, not always knowing why the situation of the characters have changed (until at times we get some other character reminding Latro).

The whole book is filled with this sort of elision and gaps. Even the way Latro refers to places is based on his translations from Greek to his language (I'm not remembering exactly, but he is not from the immediate area of the Greek pennisula or islands). So Athens is called "Thought" and the Spartans are called "Rope Makers", based on... some etymology I am not aware of. The first time I read the books that was often very confusing and geographically disorienting (in knowing where the chapters were taking place), but this time around (perhaps helped by all the Assassin's Creed Odyssey I played) I felt more confident in the geography and place names which helped in decipering the story.

I think I'm going to take a break before moving on to the second book.