1. i finished Fatal Revenant today. In some ways i wish Donaldson had just left the series alone after finishing the last trilogy 20 years ago: the new books are, so far, fitfully interesting and largely mediocre. Things pick up in the last 100 or so pages as Giants appear. Donaldson’s Giants are Falstaffian creatures of enormous vitality and humour and interact amusingly with the other characters, especially with the sternly fascist Haruchai – a race of mountain dwellers who spend all their lives learning to kill with their bare hands (they disdain weapons as “impure”). In the current books, set a few thousand years after the last, the Haruchai have usurped a kind of lordship over the Land, believing that all ills come from magic of one kind of another – from any kind of supernatural extravagance, though the “good magic”, Earthpower, is itself an emanation of the land. In the original 6 books (from the 70s & 80s) the Haruchai were an army of largely unthinking Meine Ehre heißt Treue enforcers, who trusted in the Lords (magicians) to make decisions for the best.

In the present series, they are now called “Masters” and have carefully suppressed and censored any magic of any kind, believing that such powers will only lead to disaster – with some justification. They have dissuaded Giants from visiting the Land, as Giants are naturally talkative story-tellers who will inevitably remind the humble folk of the great deeds and magics of the past, and suggest – by their very presence – a greater world. In Fatal Revenant, the Giants encounter a broken Haruchai called Stave, who has rebelled against his kin:

Coldspray strode forward sternly for a moment. Then she said. “Permit me to comprehend you, Stave of the Haruchai. Have I heard you aright? Were the choice yours, would you welcome the return of Giants to the Land?

In response, Stave made a sound that was as close as Linden had ever heard him come to laughter. “Rime Coldspray,” he answered, “Ironhand of the Swordmainnir, since the Chosen’s coming I have been humbled both profoundly and often. I no longer deem myself wise enough to discourage the friendship of Giants.”

One could read the “Masters” as akin to the socialist-controlled education system, which more or less smears Western civilisation as fascist imperialism and tries to teach history via Mr Men cartoons. Since patriotism, manliness, pride, valour, were bandied about by the Nazis, they are now reprehensible and we must instead inhabit an emasculated, dwarf-world in which it’s racist to be English, sexist to be a man, fascist to prefer to have a job rather than take money from the Government, bigoted to have any religion except Islam, and so on. While the Masters are genuinely trying to ward off catastrophe, the new breed of managerial spiders are, i believe, motivated principally by self-interest: psychological (the glow of self-righteousness) and material (high salaries for apparatchiks).

In Donaldson’s world, real power only comes from extravagance. Thus, in The Power That Preserves, a character realises that the new Lords have made little progress in the old Lords’ sorcery because they made a vow to hinder and control their own actions – the Oath of Peace. Psychologically, i believe this is true. For myself, i am determined not to become the raging monster my enemies – the Communist, for example – believe i am; but without suffocating my native vehemence: i thus allow myself to joke and taunt those who would bully me into acquiescence. My own extravagance is mainly expressed & controlled in humour; and those who would intimidate me into silence or bien pensant mouthings take this as evidence of my being a Nazi and a racist and thoroughly intolerable. But then, for these people reading the wrong newspaper is tantamount to running a Concentration Camp (but not a gulag because these are sadly necessary re-education camps for capitalist saboteurs and anyway there were no gulags or they were actually rather jolly and only bad people (right-wingers) went there anyway).

2. The distinction between humbled and humiliated is important. Discussing Fraz, an old & rather weedy schoolmate who is obsessed with martial arts, Bonehead told me a tale: Fraz was sent to an empty classroom for disrupting the class, then Rock (a 6 foot tall psychopath) said he had to go to the toilet, went into the classroom, broke Fraz’s nose, and returned. Fraz has spent the last 20 years fantasizing about meeting Rock and beating him down with Wing Chun or jiu-jitsu or Krav Maga. i like martial arts but have more or less forgotten my schooltime beatings. Bonehead suggested i was never really given a humiliating beating, something i would remember forever; that Fraz was humiliated by Rock and thus can’t forget about it.

i was occasionally humiliated by my parents, as is everyone, but since they’ve both changed a great deal it doesn’t mean much to me – those people no longer exist and those forms of humiliation no longer mean much to me.

While i would say humiliation is never more use than it costs, to be humbled is invaluable. Those who are destructively humiliated often resist humbling and are hence enraged by the slightest taunting; for me, a sign of strength is one’s ability to take punishment and taunts. For example, i visited one of the classes i share with Toddball and encouraged him to tell them about the time a whore stole his cologne; he wasn’t exactly thrilled and reciprocated by telling them about the time i was drunkedly caressing one of our MILF students at the student/teacher booze up. He’s occasionally irritated, as am i, but we both came from rough schools and recognise this as a form of friendship, a sign that you are not readily humiliated. The crucial thing is the tone – there is a difference between the surly & witlessly predictable comments my Communist enemy used to leave on my Facebook posts, and Toddball’s generally amusing and basically friendly jibes.

3. i order my life to avoid being humiliated, but i seek out humbling; for example, being naturally bad at languages and trying to learn German – a language far harder than the Romance tongues; or trying & repeatedly failing to write a novel. i didn’t come to Germany to be humbled but there it is. In some way, humility is even useful in these arts. i don’t ask questions like “but WHY is it der Computer?” because i recognise it’s just the way it is and you have to accept it; in this case, it’s good not to question.

Likewise with writing, i’m toying with ideas for my next novel and began just with ideas, like a Medieval allegory. Characters started to appear in my mind and when i allowed them to develop they changed the ideas; these fictions – which i haven’t even written down yet – dictate the situations that surround them. i had a similar experience with The Better Maker, where the two best characters surprised me, and made surprising decisions, which i felt i should allow. If there was any worth in this book, it came from these characters, from things which in a sense came from beyond me.

The problem with Donaldson’s latest book is a preponderance of ideas and not enough character. Thus, i was cheered by the Giants. In a sense, every novel has giants – figures who assume prominence and exercise their own will. i’m trying to allow them in my own novel – not to discourage the friendship of Giants – and this is itself an exercise in humility. i don’t see any contradiction between extravagance and humility; it is simply a question of perspective; and there are powers which you cannot approach without both – the extravagance to credit something beyond the drearily material, the humility to attend, when power speaks. Perhaps it was in this sense that Moses was said to be humble, above all men which were on earth.

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