” I remain quiet. I am determined to close myself to the world, to tighten my heart and hold on to what has not yet been stolen from me… They will see the whore, the madwoman, the murderess, the female dripping blood into the grass and laughing with her mouth choked with dirt. They will say ‘Agnes’ …But they will not see me. I will not be there.”
“The weight of his fingers on mine, like a bird landing on a branch. It was the drop of the match. I did not see that we were surrounded by tinder until I felt it burst into flames.”
Quotations are from “Burial Rites”.
“Burial Rites” is a fictionalised account of the life and last days of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last woman executed in Iceland for her part in the murder of two men in 1829. The descriptions of a brutal, bleak landscape are breathtaking. You can almost feel the extreme cold, and wonder at the will power of the characters to survive each day in such a harsh world.
Agnes is portrayed as a complex and haunted character, and as her story unfolds, you begin to gauge the depths of her suffering, and become more amazed at her strength to endure extreme grief and pain.
Brilliant book, gut wrenching in parts, the debut novel of an Australian woman when only in her twenties, the research undertaken for it is formidable.
Highly recommended. 5 ⭐️
I learned some things along the way. One of the things I learned is that I had to bend or else break. And I also learned that it is possible to bend and break at the same time.
Isak Dinesen said that she wrote a little every day, without hope and without despair. Someday I’ll put that on a three-by-five card and tape it to the wall beside my desk.
I have a three-by -five up there with this fragment of a sentence from a story by Chekhov: “… and suddenly everything became clear to him.” I find these words filled with wonder and possibility. I love their simple clarity, and the hint of revelation that’s implied.
It’s possible… to write about commonplace things and objects using commonplace but precise language, and to endow those things … with immense, even startling power…That’s the kind of writing that interests me.
The above are all quotations from Carver’s essays.
“Fires” is an interesting collection of work by Raymond Carver, consisting of essays, poems and stories. The essays in particular I found really interesting, and are a fascinating insight into his method of writing, and the influences on his writing. A memoir of his father “My Father’s Life”, is poignant with the regret of things left unsaid. The title essay “Fires” was really meaningful for me, because in it he names his children as the biggest influence on his writing.
His responsibilities as a father were such, and the menial work he was forced to do was so time consuming that it left little time for writing. Writing a novel was an impossible dream, so he decided to specialise in short stories that could be written in one or two nights, and then refined. As Carver states in one essay on the crafting of his stories: “Get in, get out. Don’t linger.” The rest as they say, is history.
Maybe it’s for Carver aficionados only, but I really enjoyed this book. 4⭐️
This edition published by Vintage in 2009. Original publication 1988.