The True State of Affairs

alexandra.bolintineanu at utoronto.ca alexandra.bolintineanu at utoronto.ca
Tue Jan 11 09:28:31 EST 2000


First, thank you so much for the kind words about the Dog poem, Elise
and Gili.  (Elise, there seems to be a translation of her "HOurs of
Sand" around, though Amazon.com says it's out of print. I myself am
quietly chewing at a slender little volume right now, in between Math
homework... And Gili, yes! The bit about "it's in vain" always did sound a
bit wrong to me--unspokenlike. Thank you muchly for the suggestion.)  

Last night, having at last laid hands on Minor Arcana (which
I was convinced my library didn't have, as they deviously didn't list it
under Diana Wynne Jones), I consigned Algebra homework to oblivion and sat
up feverishly reading The True State of Affairs.  

Spoilers here.











Grim!  Grim!  Grim Grim Grim!


Grim!



I think it's marvellously written. That obsessive, claustrophobic
intensity of feeling communicates incredibly well.  And the initial
situation--somebody imprisoned indefinitely, not knowing what for--is
positively Kafkaesque.  (It always amazes me, having lived under a truly
nasty tyrannical regime with a nearly legendary secret police, how well
and realistically DWJ imagines that kind of atmosphere.)  And Emily--I
do think she is one of my favourite female DWJ characters.  She has a
kind of splendid intellectual toughness and integrity that she was
projecting on Asgrim (gah!  the Adon has much to answer for!).  The
jailors, too (especially Wolfram) are so painfully convincing.  And the
blessed Relief when her relationship with Asgrim starts to develop--as a
reader I found myself throwing myself into that, emotional oasis that it
is.

And then the ending--gah!  That whole build-up of slow dragging
anxious misery that one usually associates with a preparation for
an explosively happy ending--here, neither happy ending nor some obvious
and cleansing tragedy, but only miserable confirmation without any
compensation of closure (the only thing that closes is her hope). "What a
waste of feeling," indeed.   I do  think this is one of the unhappiest
endings I've ever read--expertly and exquisitely unhappy, as a matter of
fact.

(As a side-remark:  DWJ seems to always include the writing of a
first-person narrative into the story.  (Wow, that sounds muddled.  Try
again.)  She always explains how the narrative came to be--and
often includes little writerly difficulties along with them.)

But, ye heavens above, what a *horribly* grim story.  


Shudderingly,

Alexandra





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