"Master it," Brother Jack said, "but don't overdo it. Don't let it master you. There is nothing to put the people to sleep like dry ideology. The ideal is to strike a medium between ideology and inspiration. Say what the people want to hear, but say it in such a way that they'll do what we wish."
Now there is a cynic
He laughed. "Remember too, that theory always comes after practice. Act first, theorize later; that's also a formula, a devastatingly effective one!"
He looked at me as though he did not see me and I could not tell whether he was laughing at me or with me. I was sure only that he was laughing.
"You'll do all right. Now listen. You are to continue what you started at the eviction. Keep them stirred up. Get them active. Get as many to join as possible. You'll be given guidance by some of the older members, but for the time being you are to see what you can do. You will have freedom of action -- and you will be under strict discipline to the committee."
"I see," I said.
"No, you don't quite see," he said, "but you will. You must not underestimate the discipline, Brother. It makes you answerable to the entire organization for what you do. Don't underestimate the discipline. It is very strict, but within its framework you are to have full freedom to do your work. And your work is very important. Understand?"
Oh, man! No, he doesn't understand AT ALL. Neither what "discipline" implies, nor the true impact and consequences of his eloquence (because he does not realize how it'll be used).
On all this section, I'm finding it infinitely ironic, yet fitting, the fact that being a figurehead speaker is part of what makes him invisible as a person. There is this bit before
"Stephen's problem, like ours, was not actually one of creating the uncreated conscience of his race, but of creating the uncreated features of his face. Our task is that of making ourselves individuals. The conscience of a race is the gift of its individuals who see, evaluate, record . . . We create the race by creating ourselves and then to our great astonishment we will have created something far more important: We will have created a culture. Why waste time creating a conscience for something that doesn't exist? For, you see, blood and skin do not think!"
He really has no definition of personal identity and gets absorbed into being little more than a voice flavoring other people's ideologies.
These are four loosely connected but independent short stories set at the start of Yeowe's independence from Werel, after 30 years of revolutionary war. They are the stories of people as different as they can possibly come, coming to terms. With loss, with cultural differences, with a place in society, with the past. They are all also big on starting anew. And, of course, feminism. The right to freedom, to a voice, to vote, to an education, to not be raped. These are all discussed and are an important part of the book, given the planet's recent upheaval and it's heavy history of slavery and male-dominated environment.
I found it bittersweet and lovely, and ended up with a huge bunch of quotes saved and a lump in my throat that I know not what to do with. There is so much wrong with this planet, so much hurt, and yet... it is so hopeful. I guess forgiveness is a kind of hope. Another chance. Much like love; another thing that permeates the book and is ever-present in every story.
I have closed it, as so many stories close, with a joining of two people. What is one man’s and one woman’s love and desire, against the history of two worlds, the great revolutions of our lifetimes, the hope, the unending cruelty of our species? A little thing. But a key is a little thing, next to the door it opens. If you lose the key, the door may never be unlocked. It is in our bodies that we lose or begin our freedom, in our bodies that we accept or end our slavery. So I wrote this book for my friend, with whom I have lived and will die free.
Like it happened to me with the two previous novels by this author, this book happened to me also. As in, there I was reading, and the gorgeous writing caught me and carried me through the pages.
The starting issue is difficult to read and heartbreaking. Mixing of cultures, a despicable man and a sweet, naive girl. Reading Nigel's though process was forever icky, and, like I mentioned in some progress update, an abridged manual for abusers. It is startling and scary how accurate many of his observations on human behavior are, and how he uses normal expectations and disbelief as a refuge in audacity (at one point he observes how he's being over-the-top in his villainy, and how it's to his advantage, because who would believe such a discourse happened in real life).
Once Betty enters the stage to stay, it becomes more like the standard Hodgson Burnett fare. Much like Sarah Crewe, she's a plucky, resourceful angel. It's one of those unbelievable characters that one still can't help but love and be charmed by.
It is a lovely book that tackles a thorny issue in a somewhat rosy but insightful way, and I liked it very much.