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Why is Guy Gabriel Kay’s “Frying Pan” more relevant today than ever? | Blogs, Books

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Guy Gabriel Kay wrote The Tigana in 1990, inspired by the history of the early Italian Renaissance, the independence movements in Quebec and Wales, and the events of the Prague Spring. Despite the presence of magic and magical creatures, this is a very realistic pseudo-historical fantasy, which focuses on political intrigue, the relationship between the characters and complex moral choices.

The novel was published 30 years ago, at the height of the Cold War and, it would seem, on a completely different historical and political material, but surprisingly in tune with today and helps in the process of understanding and experiencing it. Galina Beltyukova tells why.

Current political and social topics

The action of the novel takes place on the Palm Peninsula, which twenty years before was captured by two opposing sorcerers – Brandin and Alberico. There is only one formally independent province left, which they do not attack simply because they are not ready for open conflict with each other, because it threatens mutual destruction. Meanwhile, a conspiracy to overthrow foreign rulers is brewing among the residents of Tigana, the province most affected by Brandin. The rebels have only one chance and have no right to make a mistake.

The situation when the united region was previously divided and divided for geopolitical reasons, evokes certain associations, but in the novel the case is not limited to this. The spell cast by Brandin causes the province of Tigana to disappear from the memory of the entire population of the peninsula, except those from the region. Its name is erased, religion, history, culture are destroyed – as if there were no elegant sculptures, melodic songs and ancient traditions. The inhabitants of the province are cut off from trade routes, from the tours of famous artists, and from participation in political life. In twenty years, Tigana has grown from a major economic and cultural center to a boring and provincial Lower Court. The whole nation is “canceled” – erased from the pages of history.

Although Kay focuses on participants in the political process – heroes who do something to change the situation or maintain the status quo – the descriptions show how ordinary people behave in foreign domination, and in the case of Alberico – and absolute tyranny, with a cut entire families on suspicion of treason. As in reality, most prefer to wait, fearing for their lives, but some develop quiet resistance – from performing semi-forbidden rituals to composing satirical poems. It is no less risky than the struggle of the main conspirators, who have been doing this for many years and have a clear goal – to return the world to Tigana.

Finally, the question of national self-consciousness and ways to preserve it, especially in a hostile environment, is still important to many peoples and regions. Kay, using the example of Tigana, shows that the strength lies in the unification and preservation of culture and language, the seamless integration into the new life of symbols of the past, on which it will be possible to quickly restore the foundations when the right moment comes.

Serious ethical dilemmas

Why is Guy Gabriel Kay's

In difficult times, people tend to choose the side and divide the environment into friends and enemies. And the longer the conflict lasts, the stronger the split and the more radical the statements and actions.

At the beginning of the novel, it seems that the roles of heroes and villains are already distributed. There is a group of noble freedom fighters, and there are two despots who seized power by force on the peninsula and tortured its inhabitants physically and morally. It is obvious that in order to restore justice to Brandin and Alberico, it is necessary to expel and return power to local rulers. And the main characters repeat it again and again as a mantra that keeps them afloat.

Only in the chapters on behalf of Brandin’s concubine does the reader see not a magician obsessed with power, blinded by a thirst for revenge, but a strict but just leader who cares for his subjects, calm and prudent. Capable of love and still grieving over his dead son. This new image does not undo the horrific crime he committed against Tigana, but it shows that Brandin is more than one of his actions, that he could help the region develop, turn the story around. And even Alberico, perhaps the most unpleasant of the characters, whom Kay himself compared to a typical member of the Soviet Politburo, at some point causes if not understanding, then pity.

“Frying Pan” is full of complex ethical dilemmas that the characters face. One of the most important is the choice between freedom and stability. One of the characters directly tells the rebel leader that under the tyrant Alberico, the provincial roads have become much safer than in the days of the former duke. And he reproaches him for being ready to serve foreign rulers for handouts. But the fact that the Tigans have no other choice does not detract from the interests of the inhabitants of all the other provinces. In addition, the future of the Palm Peninsula without Brandin and Alberico is rather bleak, and there is a risk that their collapse will lead to even greater disasters.

In addition, the question of the price of justice arises almost immediately. Can the liberation of Tigana from the spell be called the highest value, for the achievement of which everything is allowed? Can it justify the death of civilians, including those who have nothing to do with Tigana and will gain nothing from its restoration? Can a person be considered a hero who forcibly forces another to take part in a conspiracy? There is no unambiguous answer to these questions, everyone decides for himself depending on his place in the unfolding events and proximity to them.

Finally, Dianora’s line shows the whole tragedy of the clash of love and duty – in front of herself, relatives or the country. In extreme situations, any choice will seem a betrayal. It is in these chapters that Kay’s psychologism reaches its limit, and Dianora’s throwing, which from the outside is easy to call a collaborationist, looks recognizable and human.

Opportunity «grounding»

Despite a number of events, including several full-scale battles between entire armies, the novel is melancholic rather than dynamic. It devotes time to descriptions of nature, memories of the past, and discussions of duty, destiny and destiny. This is not a book that you can flip through in a couple of hours and move on. But today, when many people are doing dum scrolling and can not disconnect from the outside world, such slowness “ground” and gives a new perspective.

Many situations and questions facing the characters are a bit similar to what Russian-speaking readers are experiencing now. And in the safe remoteness of the fantasy world invented by Kay, it is easier to feel them, to see what behavior strategy the characters choose and what it leads to. Or just enjoy the beautiful syllable and story of Tigana’s return to her place in history and chance at the future.

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