Fri, 05 Aug 2016
Judgement Day

By A. S. Byatt

This is a thin book, but not slight. The "thin child in war time" is obviously Byatt herself but it is not really autobiographical, or really a novel.

The child finds pleasure and escape reading Asgard and the Gods by Wilhelm Wägner, a book published in 1880 that retold "tales and traditions of our northern ancestors". The Norse Gods. She prefers these darker, less optimistic and stranger tales to those she is told at church.

One of things that suffuses these tales in the inexorable slide towards the final terrible battle, the judgement and demise of the Asgardians. They know this and accept it.

After a long time, the fire too died. All there was was a flat surface of black liquid glinting in the small pale points of light that still came through the starholes. A few gold chessmen floated and bobbed on the dark ripples.

The Norse myths do not appear to have had any time for a resurrection or an afterlife, at least after the final world destroying, and god destroying battle. The girl finds this oddly satisfying. I think Byatt gets the sombre feeling quite right in her telling of these old myths and, like the "thin child", I found that very fitting as well.