Friday, 16 September 2011

Weighting for the Barbarians

So I finished Waiting for the Barbarians and I've been thinking about it. The first thing that occurred to me was that in an age of muskets and bows, empire and Barbarian horde, in a time of danger, no god is invoked. When I looked to check it struck me that god is all through it in the form of god's own tense, the nunc-stans of the continuous present. That this hadn't been apparent to me before because I normally can't abide the intrusiveness of it, that buttonholing, is an indication of the skill of the writing. So if God is in the grammar, where's the devil? In the diction, Mo.

The magistrate narrator is a weighing scales. The sentences are perfectly weighted to the dynamic of the action, he is balanced between the meddling Empire and the nomadic Barbarians. His attachment to a Barbarian girl who has been partially blinded and lamed by the emissaries from the centre causes the pointer to tilt in the direction of folly. He mounts an expedition to return the girl to her people.

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