The Gradual Week 8
- Sandro soon decides to abandon his itinerary and go 'off-piste'. He spends the next 56 days travelling on 20 boats to umpteen different islands. He enjoys the freedom, so different from his highly regulated home, where free speech and the internet are not really a thing, and e-mails are monitored. The adepts go wherever he does, always getting there first, but seldom obviously taking the same boat. He uses their services and sees the results in the changing face of his wristwatch. It costs him in thalers each time. Each ship also has the two chronometers - absolute time and ship time.
- He is slowly making his way toward Temmil, haunted as he is by And Ante. He arrives on Demmer, a large island in the same group where he must change ship. The adept, Kan, approaches him. She asks him if he intends to land - he could go back without disembarking. He asks why she suggests this, but received no answer. She tells him there will be no charge for services on Demmer. She doesn't explain why and he doesn't persist.
- He disembarks and meets Kan outside the Shelterate building. Kan hands him his stave and tells him there is no detriment, and no charge. The Gradual on Demmer is neutral. Meanwhile, a storm builds quickly and soon opens up. He shelters with Kan under the canopy. Several rounds of hail fall, and there are high, warm, winds. Eventually the hail turns to rain, and Kan steps out into it, allowing herself to get soaked while she looks up at the sky. Sandro sees others doing this, too, including the people from the shelterate building. When the rain stops, Kan departs without a word, and the officials re-enter the Shelterate building. Sandro follows them in.
- Sandro re-emerges an hour later, angry and humiliated at what seems to be rough or invasive treatment by the customs people. In a foul mood, he goes to his hotel and turns in early. The next day is pleasant, though, and his mood seems to be back to normal at the end of it.
- The second morning, he strikes off to go on a walk in a direction he hasn't explored yet. There remains something about the island he doesn't quite like, but he can't quite say what. On his walk, he comes to a barrier across the road, and is uncertain he should cross it. Two young black caps emerge from nearby and question him loosely. He has no papers but offers his stave - which they have no interest in. He asks if he can keep going, or must turn back. They let him through. He descends into a village - it seems somewhat abandoned. He hears gunfire nearby and shouting. He crouches beside a wall in fear. Soon, a door is kicked open and four black-caps emerge, roughly escorting another man. They put him on a truck. The officer returns to the house and closes the door, picking up some caps that fell off. He approaches Sandro and tells him he's in a closed military zone, and that he's authorized to eliminate witnesses. Sandro tells him who he is, and begins to think this is his brother Jacj, by the sound of his voice (he can't see his face). He has the number 289 on his clothing. The soldier tells him that he's read a report that Alesandro Sussken has absconded from Glaund with 30,000 gulden of state money, and that he has downloaded a warrant for his arrest.
- Sandro appeal to Jacj, asking him to acknowledge their connection. He tells him their parents are dead. Reminds him of when they played music together after bombings. Then he mentions Jacj's cat, Djahann, and that seems to do the trick. Jacj removes his glasses and scarf and Sandro can see it's him. Jacj acknowledges the cat, and even calls him Sandro. He tells him to leave - if he leaves now, he need not arrest him. Sandro is reluctant, but when the other soldiers arrive and Jacj tells him to leave a second and third time, he does - and runs back to town.
- This passage from Ch. 46 seems to strike at the heart of one of the themes: "When we travel, we take our expectations with us, our prejudices, our sense of normality. We see what we see through eyes trained by home." Does this only relate to Sandro's travels, or to all physical travel? To what degree does it apply to the whole novel, or to novels in general?
- What do you make of the people standing in the rain? A symbolic cleansing? An actual cleansing? Of what? Is this the author's way of signaling a change in the story? Or is other symbolism at work?
- I'm currently reading Maps and Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands by Michael Chabon, a collection of essays about, mostly, genre fiction. In the essay, Dark Adventure Along Cormac McCarthy's The Road, Chabon has something to say about the genre. Relevant?:
"But it's not the goal of the journey, the movement toward healing, however illusory, that marks The Road as epic adventure. It's the passage of it's heroes through Hell. In Walter M. Miller Jr.'s introduction to Beyond Armageddon, an anthology of post-apocalypse short stories, the late author... suggests that what most characterizes the form is not the setting or action - the scarred landscape, the savage contending tribes, the mutations, the deprivations, the desolation and death - but rather the epic persistence with which its protagonists are haunted by the ghosts of the dead, by the vanished. The world post-apocalypse is not Waterworld; it's the Underworld. In his stories, his memories, and above all in his dreams, the father in The Road is visited as poignantly and dreadfully as Odysseus or Aeneas by ghosts, by the gibbering shades of the former world that populate the grey, sunless hell he and his son are daily obliged to harrow."