Sunday, April 13, 2014

we were at any time

Death in the late novellas is restless. Hades, at the end of Real Wraiths, decides to abdicate from his position as king of the Underworld and instead “plunge, dive, sink into the whole great mass of universal matter and become its living soul,” eliminating himself as himself, but the other characters will communicate with him afterwards, they say, in Switzerland, near the Alps, at “a chapel dedicated to William Tell.”

Would it make you feel better about erasing yourself if we promised to contact you? one of them asks. Hades says yes it would.

If we were all to make that, yes! the chapel of William Tell our home you would know where we were at any time and we would be able at any time to communicate with you our Lord and Master now become the Soul of Matter.

It is not only the late books either, come to think of it. Powys' oeuvre as a whole assumes that a dead person might possibly go on speaking and being spoken to, or at least they will be in communication with the rest of society in one way or another (that corpse in Porius), or anyway that death is not always the end of personality, and that the dead can still be treated like the people that they used to be, these late stories not always bothering to introduce the person before they died, instead starting straight off with them dead and ghostly in a kingdom of ghosts. “Before they set off from Florence to Venice they had to be interviewed by the king of the Florentine ghosts. His name was Tarralalanko ...”

I have to say "might possibly go on" because it doesn't always happen. "Lalanika was dead, and all the consciousness she had had was lost forever." (All or Nothing) Lalanika is a star, by the way. Sleeping, she wakes and finds the human character Nezzar Nu staring at her weirdly from the foot of the bed. Then she tears off the nightdress that she has borrowed from Jilly Tewky and explodes.

I wasn't thinking about Powys two posts ago when I wrote the words “and every character would come back as a ghost, not really gone, just feinting, now returning to continue the story in a slightly different way,” but that is what happens in Real Wraiths when Persephone smashes her brains out on a stone. “What was her astonishment when after only a second of total blackness she found herself in an ecstasy of happiness such as she had not known since her childhood, being embraced by the real wraith of her mother!”

They fly away to join the rest of the cast, Wang, Tang, Pop, Sock, the Devil, and King Hades, who have all gone to the planet Venus, which is very soft unless you spit on it, which is Powys' way of introducing the mother/whore dichotomy into the book, using this violent whimsy and then passing on to other ideas, leaving me to wonder why the idea is there. Why the brutality of spitting? By this point in his life he has become a pedestalising feminist who will tell you that there are strong differences between men and women but neither one is inferior to the other, though the extreme female characteristics of some characters are frequently superior to the extreme masculine characteristics of other characters, and he occasionally will bung his female characters together in an undifferentiated clump; and the pedestalising tactic of course has severe problems on bothly sexed sides when you apply it to actual people, one size not fitting all.

I submit that he is a feeler, not a thinker, and that his absolute love of juxtaposition and difference makes that enthusiastic pedestal conclusion a natural one for him, the man having trained himself in a habit of oppositions as I have already noted, amen, so that opposition and juxtaposition were the modes that felt right to him; and similarity felt cold, scientific, and unnatural.

No comments:

Post a Comment