Vita Nostra Q9: What else


There's more to the book than I've covered in the questions. What else should we be talking or thinking about?


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    I’m still trying to parse the whole school thing. On the one hand, the school seems to be all about performing inexplicable tasks toward a mysterious goal. This strikes me very much as a parable for Christian faith. To become a child of god, you need to have faith in the teachings. Rationalism will spit you out the other end. Further, the profs and students look human, but aren’t, and they have wings, so this is clearly an Angel Training Program.

    But if that’s the case, why all the threats to family? This seems entirely un-Christian. I’m struggling to reconcile these two things. Are the authors referencing Christianity? And to what degree?
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    The notion that it's about Gnosticism is one that holds a lot of water. The students and staff aren't "human", they're fragments of God. Farit is the demiurge, the essence of the material world and all the base things it contains. As the students gain personal knowledge of the divine, they ascend and lose their material, human, restrictions.

    In that view, Farit can only be evil and dangerous, because he is the evil and dangerous physical world. At the end of the book Sasha rejects him, wanting to love without fear, and that is shown by her ending the fear surrounding her mother and the baby.

    Now, is that the only interpretation? The correct interpretation? I've no idea. But I think it's plausible.

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    If you take the line that a coming of age book is basically posing the question "what do you want to be when you grow up?" then we see Sasha not having a clue at first - she feels drawn to the challenge of the school, especially when her first option proves a disappointment, but she cannot explain what the new establishment actually offers either to herself or to others. It's just a place she knows she wants to go to.

    By the end she wants the cool power and stuff, but she also wants to be more human than her teachers - or at least, so I read the snippet where she goes back to her parental home to establish some reconciliation and rapport with her mother. She wants not only to be as good as them at the subject matter, but also to be better than them at the interpersonal stuff.

    That's not to deny the gnostic or Sufi connections, of course... I'm just thinking about the surface layer of the book rather than any underlying mystical content.
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    It's a small point in comparison with many others we're talking about, but did any of us have a lecturer or supervisor indicate that we ought to get laid purely to achieve academic advancement? When I came across Sasha getting this advice I kind of thought, "yeah right, sure that would happen" and just read past it. But afterwards it struck me as increasingly odd that anyone would assume that this could legitimately happen at a school (other than for rather more sinister purposes, which particular dimension seems absent here).

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    There's also the revelation of Lisa's tasks before attending the Institute (prostitution). Is this to give the impression that nothing is off-limits to the Institute?

    I agree that this sort of thing would be followed by an investigation and possibly a dismissal in a UK university.

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