Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Djinn in the nightingale´s eye by A.S.Byatt

"Once upon a time," A.S. Byatt's title fairy story begins, "when men and women hurtled through the air on metal wings, when they wore webbed feet and walked on the bottom of the sea, learning the speech of whales and the songs of the dolphins ... there was a woman who was largely irrelevant, and therefore happy. Her business was storytelling..." But this is no backward looking, quaint fairy time. The time is the present, and the protagonist is a sensible scholar who is given the not-at-all sensible gift of a genie. How will Gillian, an expert in fairy stories and well versed in all that can go wrong with wishes, use hers? Distinguished British author and Booker Prize-winner A.S. Byatt creates fairy tales for adults, each a blend of the magical and the modern, and readers of Angels & Insects and Possesions will recognize the role of Victorian fairy tales in her fiction. This handsome little book includes reproductions of woodcuts that evoke our childhood wonder for dragons and princesses, glass coffins and netherworldly things. (source:

A fairy tale for grown-ups I had to read for my Byatt seminar at university. While reading I found it a bit weird and cryptic but the more I think and discussed about it in class, the more depth I see in the story.
It´s one of those pieces of literature where you can see a symbol or metaphor in nearly every sentence. Opens up endless possibilities for discussions and interpretations but might leave you a bit unsatisfied as it doesn´t give you a solid, proper message or ending.
Definitely not something for everyones taste but recommended for people with an interest in fairy tales and feminist literature. My verdict is: If you like Angela Carter then you probably will like this.

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