Rendang

Rendang by Will Harris is a strange kind of book. It’s poetry, but also a combination of casual conversations, memory flashes, narratives and dreams seemingly “stolen” from the people the I of each poem happens to meet along the way. It made me think about that line from a Radiohead song, “We are all accidents, waiting to happen”, but in reverse: in Will Harris’ lines, there are just incidents, or rather people and things incidentally landing on the poet’s sense of awareness, and the collection probably stems from the poet’s need to make sense of the inconsequentiality of existence and of his meeting all these people, objects and dreams by chance.

To me, poetry has always been about “less” rather than “more”, about removing superfluous words instead of adding new ones so as to focus on those that really matter and reveal the inner sound of our energy, the jade filigree lines invisibly turning all beings in their movements and metamorphoses into beauty and structural solidity  ̶  something not so different from what Chinese philosophers of ancient times might have called 理 (lĭ). In Rendang, instead, Will Harris seems to opt for a different strategy altogether: he brings in as many words (and voices) as he can master from the outside world to shape their chaos into something coherent and luminous. I tend to think of poetry as a shelter from the world, a silence cultivating the ultimate word away from chaos and confusion, but I think Will Harris’ special way of saying: “embrace the chaos, immerse your memory, pain and broken heart into the world” is a whole new approach to poetry, if compared to what I’m used to read.

In this respect, the title and its semantic implications are extremely important: “Rendang” is an Indonesian spicy meat dish served to honour guests during festivals, so in a way the whole collection of poems symbolizes a gift to the readers, an offering made of voices, but it also probably hints at Will Harris’ mixed heritage, his mother being Chinese Indonesian, his father being English. The word “rendang” symbolizing a dish, though, may at times turn either into “rend”, tearing to pieces, or “render”, cause something to become something else, and this is what the whole collection actually stems from, a “concrete poem” made of two of these words: REND RENDER RENDER. In my view, this coexistence of gifts, lacerations and transformations is the key for understanding the whole book, teemed with a series of objects which “float lovingly on the background” (SAY) turning the poems into a collective stream of consciousness, a flow of different voices merging into a single point  ̶  the poet’s voice  ̶  ultimately turning chaos and meaninglessness into feeling. Behind all that, there’s the poet’s rending-words-apart strategy: he takes fragments and found objects (but also other poets’ words) from the world to break them apart and render them into something new – his own vision, his poems, shining through with the transparency of those found objects, those whispers taken from other people. Because, as Harris himself says in Glass Case, “art should be like glass”, meaning it should show beings the way they are, “unmaimed” though full of pain, carrying on and carrying across, in-between one dream and the other, one culture and the other, living and writing “into the break”.  

Break itself is one of the pivotal moments of the collection: it is poem on hiatus in relationships, music, life, everything coming between one sound/word/ache and the other as “to make space for what follows. Heartbreak. Break-down. Breakthrough. Beneath the surface flow of time are nodes. You slip into the break and look around, see past and future, love and sickness rearranged. Reordered. You feel yourself whole and breached. As me you.” 

Another highlight of the collection certainly is SAY, the moment in the collection we realize found objects are the stuff Will Harris’ poetical voice and vision are made of. In the opening, the I’s father finds “a brick-sized block of grey stone” on the shore, with the word SAY carved on its surface. Here more than ever we can see how Harris’ poems are made of “What can’t be disposed of otherwise  ̶  what can’t be broken down  ̶  is taken by the river, spat out or lodged in mud.” The poet is taking all the litter of the world in, trying to process it into something beautiful; he doesn’t shy away from all the world’s contradictions, but reassembles them with care and, hopefully, insight. He focuses on dislocated objects finding their place back into meaning, no longer discarded or disposed of but kindly picked up and lovingly patched up as remains from other people’s lives, scraps turned into fleeting diamonds. “The SAY brick took pride of place on our chest of drawers  ̶  masonry, defaced by time, made part of the furniture.” In other words, made part of sense. Will Harris is showing empathy towards what he finds (objects, dreams, conversations), giving them a face and a space on the page.

Later on in the same poem, he also says: “Things break, not flow; it is impossible, however lovely, to see the whole of humanity as a single helix rotating forever in the midst of universal time.” Because everyone lives in their own microcosmos littered with fragments, the poet seems to imply. It reminded me of a sentence spoken by Yu Cheng, a character from “Dàxiàngxídìérzuò” 大象席地而坐 (An elephant sitting still), a Chinese film (and novel) by Hú Bō 湖波: “My life is a landfill”. Yet, instead of turning to despair like Yu Cheng (and Hu Bo, who committed suicide right after the film was released) did, Will Harris takes whatever he can from this landfill to give it back its shape and glory. “Flow, break, flow. Gather up the fragments.”

What ultimately strikes as a core feature of the collection is this casual toying with words in an experiental and relational way, touching them and being touched by their mutual touching/clashing to reach a sudden shock or epiphany, as if the whole writing process was deliberately mimicking or taking inspiration from Chánzōng 襌宗 (Chinese Buddhism), and I wonder if, Buddhism being one of the six official religions of Indonesia and possibly part of the Chinese immigrants heritage, its distinctly Chinese variety might also be a relevant part of Will Harris’ own heritage as a son of a Chinese Indonesian woman.

To sum up, I loved Will Harris’ writing poetry as a way to immerse himself completely in the din of the world helping us discover the unexpected in the bumping against each other that the world sometimes is. Reading (and writing) his poems feels like bumping against words, but it’s deliberate, this casual walking in and out of objects, people, conversations, citations, songs, because it’s what life is, after all: a collection of found objects/memories/people/encounters made and remade. Until revelation comes and “buddleia” becomes “buddha”, and the other way round.

Tranströmer

“Fantastic to feel how my poem grows/ while I myself shrink./ It is growing, it takes my place./It pushes me out of the way./ It throws me out of the nest.”

Tomas Tranströmer, Morgonfåglarna

The poem grows, while the poet shrinks. His ego leaves room, makes way for words, let them inhabit space, and meaning, shutting everything else out, their echo the only murmur that can make sense and restore quiet despite humans and their unnecessary clamour. The poem unravels as the poet slowly walks into disappearance, receding in a constant wake for the right words to print themselves onto white and outlive all inconsequential thoughts behind, finally free from the I.

“Weary of all who come with words,/ words but no language / I make my way to the snow-covered island./ The untamed has no words. /The unwritten pages spread out on every side!/ I come upon the tracks of deer/in the snow./ Language, but no words.”

Tomas Tranströmer, Från Mars ’79 (translated by Robin Fulton)

We’re so full on words we just can’t take it anymore. Or, at least, poets like Tranströmer feel they can’t take it anymore, and prefer focusing on this glorious combination of languages beyond language and murmuring silence opening/closing, revealing some residual breath out of our hectic life, once we manage to leave its jangle behind. It may be a deer printing its sound on snow or maybe a necklace of hoove-steps leaving their mark on the ground, on our eyes, making words suddenly feel excessive, heavy. Then we can really access the mystery of reaching out, from the universe and back, without using any human alphabet. This is how Tranströmer’s poetry turns into a sober path to secular asceticism, a rigorous search for the unadorned interconnectedness of living creatures and objects,  with no pretense of revelation nor eternal truth to discover.

Bright Star

“Bright Star, would I were as steadfast as thou art —

Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart […]

No—yet still steadfast, still unchangeable […]

Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.”

John Keats, Bright Star (1819)

I think John Keats’s  achievements in poetry were amazing, given the fact that he was ill and bound to die. He knew he had to die, but despite of this he rushed into writing as if it was the only thing that mattered to him, the only reason left for living. 1819 was a prolific year for him, it was the year in which he created his most famous masterpieces, including many Odes, and it was also the year he spent away from Fanny, the woman he loved, though they never really managed to be together. Writing in a way was a compensation for the love he couldn’t achieve, for the arms he couldn’t embrace, the lips he couldn’t kiss. It was almost more than love itself, because it was tangible, unchangeable and immortal. Anyone who is familiar with the mystery of words as an intoxicating force knows how writing (or reading, for that matter) can fill our veins with an irresistible energy, the will to be alive, all human and more than human, because words in their light can let us reach for the sky and be closer to the harmony of the universe. I think this is what beauty really is: an anchor, a lucky charm, a litany of sounds to fend off the darkness surrounding us. Of course Keats’ example was an extreme one, because he was on the verge of dying, so suffering to him was both something physical and spiritual. He had to cope with the idea of facing death, so he literally had to cling on to something more powerful than death itself, namely the memory of beauty and conjure up creativity and writing as his driving force, pushing life to the limit and yet making life more real at the same time. Writing was his way out of death and suffering just because he had nothing else to cling to, but also because writing meant life to him, and he couldn’t do without it.

I think this is the key to all possible ways to let beauty and truth emerge from everyday struggle, no matter how small it might be: to cling to something we deem precious as if our very survival depended on it. Feeling on the verge of disaster probably is what fuels our moments of beauty, our lingering on what can be precious for us. And, while seeking beauty, we can actually dream of being a bright star, “steadfast” and “unchangeable”, of being this luminous halo radiating through our veins and let peace in, without any care nor preoccupation over anything but truth, because it nurtures our thirst for unity and perfection.

Anne Sexton

“That does not keep me from having a terrible need of – shall I say the word – religion. Then I go out at night to paint the stars.”

Vincent Van Gogh in a letter to his brother

“The town does not exist

except where one black-haired tree slips

up like a drowned woman into the hot sky.

Oh starry starry night! This is how

I want to die.

It moves. They are all alive.

Even the moon bulges in its orange irons

to push children, like a god, from its eye.

The old unseen serpent swallows up the stars.

Oh starry starry night! This is how

I want to die:

Into that rushing beast of the night,

sucked up by that great dragon, to split

from my life with no flag,

no belly,

no cry.”

Anne Sexton, The Starry Night, from All the Pretty Ones (1962)

Madness has always been a great issue for humans, not just for artists, I guess. Maybe the word “madness” can’t really encompass the struggle we deal with in our everyday life, the pressure we feel to appear as society wants us to be – perfect, always smiling or telling stupid jokes that can save the day, superficial, with no clear intention of digging underneath the surface of things. Sometimes, being “simply” a woman or a man takes a huge effort and we can’t really stand it, with all the rules we are supposed to bend to. So embracing difference as a way out of this chaos called living sometimes feels like the only way to survive. Difference can come in many ways, like silence, for instance, while everyone else is busy talking or bonding. Especially bonding. Today it is almost a must, something everyone is required to do: you need to bond with other human beings in order to be considered “normal”. At school, for example, those pupils who tend to be on their own are watched over with care, because wishing to be on your own is considered to be unnatural, and yet many adults as well may prefer staying on their own instead of bonding with somebody else, so why should teenagers be different? And staying on your own is precisely when revelation and beauty come your way. Like for Van Gogh or Sexton in their Starry Night: you walk out of the ordinary to meet silence and its unexpected truths, where your old self can die to let the new one emerge – alive, moving, bulging new born children from its burning eye. A rebirth into pulsating life, what the poet calls “the rushing beast of night”; something raw, primal and true, that belongs to us and only us, and help us get away from our deadened life with no “flag” (neither country nor nationality), no “belly” (thus no gender) and no “cry” (and so no more suffering, because we have finally done away with rules).

Louise Glück

“Not I, you idiot, not self, but we, we-waves

of sky blue like

a critique of heaven: why

do you treasure your voice

when to be one thing

is to be next to nothing?

Why do you look up? To hear

an echo like the voice

of god? You are all the same to us,

solitary, standing above us, planning

your silly lives: you go

where you are sent, like all things,

where the wind plants you,

one or another of you forever

looking down and seeing some image

of water, and hearing what? Waves, and over waves, birds singing.”

Louise Gluck, from The Wild Iris (1992)

The Wild Iris is a remarkable collection of poems. Regardless of its overt religious references, it rings true with humility shining everlasting as an antidote to blindness. I like the idea of a flower talking to humans and trying to make them see how stupid, superficial and vane they are, caught in their silly little lives full of irrelevant quarrels, clashing against one another when all we need to do is find a hidden place for ourselves and nurture our inner life, without paying attention to the noise surrounding us. I also like the image of flowers as waves in heaven spreading to infinity and humans as soundwaves – unintelligible, insignificant, meaningless. Changing our perspective, our mentality, is crucial for our survival, I think, not to get mad, not to fall for the stupid rules we are required to bow down to, not to reduce our lives to blind obedience to stereotypes and preordained scripts. I also like the idea in the lines “why do you treasure your voice/ when to be one thing/ is to be next to nothing?” To be just one thing feels like confinement, that is why probably we need art: to create different selves, or simply to let our other selves come out. Humility probably comes by simply acknowledging the Other within ourselves and the Self within the Other without wishing to possess them, but letting them go.

Woolgathering

“My head is a bell

I murmur

between

bandaged fingers

already asleep.”

“It seemed like all of creation was mapped out above and I was drawn from the laughter of the other children into a stillness I aspired to master. Here one could hear a seed form or the soul fold like a handkerchief. I believed they were there, the people. I could hear them, now and then, murmuring and whistling as if behind a wall of cotton. I could hear them but I could never make out the language they were speaking nor the melodies they were weaving. […] And the image of the woolgatherers in that sleepy filed drew me to sleep as well. And I wandered among them, through thistle and thorn, with no task more exceptional than to rescue a fleeting thought, as a tuft of wool, from the comb of the wind.”

Patti Smith, Woolgathering

Some books are like prayers, small marbles placed like offerings to silence in the palm of our hands,  needles oscillating on the compass to let us reach the cloud of reverie and open the curious skin of the word. Books made out of murmuring and listening, simultaneously threading rosaries of snapshots in the curving space of memory. This is what Woolgathering is to me: neither poetry nor memoir, but luminescent yarns the axis-heart slowly finds itself spinning around. And we just wait for images to form like seeds, done and undone before our very eyes, knowing no gift will compare to this.

What poetry means to me

Rosewindow you, watercolour pencils, Sacha Rosel, October 2020

I tend to read poetry a lot, but I’ve recently realized my reading poetry has always been about looking for something very specific: while reading poetry, I’m always looking for a way to shut out the fog of the world. I’m looking for the word that will wipe out the noise and let me step into the luminous truth. Poetry is quenching my thirst for meaning, feeding my hunger for the word that will make sense of it all beyond hyperconnectivity, efficiency, performance, multitasking and all the blabbering capitalistic, result-driven frenzy society, work and mass media force upon us. To me poetry is silence, and words within silence, and the axe hewing truth out of the ice of superfluous nonsense.

Suspiria 2018

(The conference of dreams, Sacha Rosel, watercolour pencils on paper, October 2020)

“Is the darkness ours to take?”

Suspirium, Thom Yorke

“The hands. I want to be this company’s hands”

Susy to Madame Blanche in Suspiria, Luca Guadagnino

The most interesting aspect of Suspiria 2018 is its ability to show female power as subversive and utterly independent from any phallocentric influence, be it god or the devil. There are no male deities to worship nor to obey here, only the luminous halo of darkness as the supreme energy guiding woman through the ultimate freedom, without any compromise nor any possible reconciliation with life as it was before. And motherhood, revealed as a gift from the afterlife, has no suffocating (infibulating) qualities pulling daughters apart and tearing their quest for self-affirmation asunder by denying them the freedom to explore and wander; on the contrary, in the film motherhood functions as pure raw energy liberating the self and allowing it to choose whether to die, to dance or to welcome the proliferative virality of putrefaction. Who says choosing to be human is better than becoming “unmade” and reborn, growing again into obscurity, wormified into endless fermentation?

Far more than just a soundtrack, Yorke’s Suspiria is a whole parallel vision, a landscape of spectre-like waves and echoes. Yorke’s voice and music no doubt is witchcraft (I mean it as a compliment), a sabbath of sounds celebrating the dark by letting his feminine side shine through the filigree of time and space. The record is a true gift from the underworld and the invisible power of the spirits talking through his (her) shaman spells, himself turning into a full circle of women ruling the world. The gloaming and Burn the Witch were there for us to see how far the witch within could fly, only to rise eternal in whispers from the dark beyond.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

“He wondered, then, if the others who remained on Earth experienced the void this way […]. He lived alone in this deteriorating, blind building of a thousand uninhabitated apartments, which like all its counterparts, fell, day by day, into greater entropic ruin. Eventually, everything within the building would merge, would be faceless and identical […]. And, after that, the uncared-for building itself would settle into shapelessness, buried under the ubiquity of the dust.”

“The painting showed a hairless, oppressed creature with a head like an inverted pear, its hands clapped in horror to its ears, its mouth open in a vast, soundless scream. Twisted ripples of the creature’s torment, echoes of its cry, flooded out into the air surrounding it; the man or woman, whichever it was, had become contained by its own howl. It had covered its ears against its own sound. The creature stood on a bridge and no one else was present; the creature screamed in isolation. Cut off by  ̶  or despite  ̶  its outcry.”

Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

I’ve watched 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner four times, enjoying both the director’s cut version and the happy-ending one, every time thinking it was a masterpiece ahead of its times. Yet I’ve always wondered how the story might be related to its original source, the 1968 novel written by Philip K. Dick called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Oddly enough, though sci-fi tends to be my favourite genre when choosing films, this is not always the case with books, so I’ve only read the book recently. Though being focused on Rick Deckard and his quest for truth while hunting down androids like Ridley Scott’s film is, the book leads you to a completely different journey  ̶  and what a revelation it was to me!

                In particular, the novel revolves around crucial questions which were completely ruled out of the film’s romantic, adventure-driven narrative. It’s not just the characters or the storyline that’s different  ̶  Rick having a wife, Rachel revealing a ruthless personality or Roy being crass despite the complexity of his intelligence  ̶  it’s the whole philosophical fabric lying beyond the story that makes the book both outstanding and surprising if compared to the film’s unparalleled evergreen status. The divide between organic and artificial, with Rick questioning what is real and what is fake while dealing with androids, is probably a core pattern in both the film and the novel; yet, in creating his future world through the book, Dick seems more concerned with exploring empathy as the ultimate frontier of human behaviour than with the divide itself. As a consequence of their empathy-oriented psychology (which androids apparently are  unable to mimic), all human characters in the novel are obsessed with the idea of owning real animals as opposed to electric ones, not simply because most of the animals which used to roam the Earth in the past are now extinct or rare to find; more importantly, owning a real, breathing animal would be proof enough of life’s inherent purpose which, given the decaying nature of the world the story is set in, grows in fact thinner every day. Owls, spiders, sheep, goats, cats and toads crawl over the novel’s pages as tokens for the human desire to persist, despite decay spreading across the cosmos: buying or even just finding a real animal may hopefully reverse the tragic and inevitable nosedive into death the planet is heading to  ̶  engulfing all the characters who chose to stay or had no choice but staying instead of embarking on a journey to the promised land of Mars. Unless, as Pris accidentally reveals to Isidore, Mars was nothing but another lonely place lost in the galaxy of life, as empty as a shell as the Earth is. Emptiness, both dreaded and embraced by the human characters of the novel, stands for a specific kind of fear we might refer to as the fear of shapelessness, seen as the only possible outcome of human life while facing the Great Leveler called entropy. In this sense, the idolization of real animals, as opposed to the mere tolerance of electric ones, may also represent the human will to revert entropy by opposing the proliferation of artificial beings with the uniqueness of a pet, cherished with care and fondness. And yet, once again, the divide is constantly contradicted and eluded by a simple, but clever, fact: though artificial entities may pose as endless replicas meant to last, they curiously end up deteriorating just like any fragile natural creature does, all lost in the hoarder-like pile of debris everyday existence is made of. As we find out that even electric animals, like real ones, can become “organically ill”, that is unable to function properly, we slowly realize that the fight against entropy and shapelessness may leave everyone, real and artificial alike , bare and meaningless.

Dick’s world truly is full of surprises, giving humanity yet another way out of misery, decay, entropy, and emptiness: a combination of religion and mystical experience humans can resort to whenever they feel all hope is lost. Mercerism consists in spiritually and physically merging with old and wise Mercer, thus in a way attaining shapelessness, the very thing human seem to fear; at the same time, being part of Mercer’s own experience in climbing a hill while being hit by stones changes the nature of this specific shapelessness, allowing humans to access a new dimension where the I and the whole universe radiate into one another becoming the shape beyond all shapes, the real beyond all fakes, the whole beyond all forms of decay. The I beyond all boundaries of the I, no longer “contained in its own howl”, like Munch’s painting so vividly described in the lines mentioned above, but finally free.

A friend once argued that Philip K. Dick was nothing but a “crap author”, perhaps quoting Dick himself and his memoir, “Confessions of a crap artist”. But Dick will never be a crap author to me, for he is a true magician and creator of a luminous universe where living may not have any purpose left but this desperate struggle to shed light into our fears and perhaps our dreams, clinging to accumulation but hoping for uniqueness despite decay. Despite death approaching by the minute.

Svastika Night

“I believe, sang all the men and boys and the Knight in unison, in God the Thunderer, who made this physical earth on which men march their mortal bodies, and in His Heaven where all heroes are, and in His Son our Holy Adolf Hitler, the Only Man. Who was, not begotten, not born of a woman, but Exploded”

“The human values of this world are masculine. There are no feminine values because there are no women. Nobody could tell what we should admire or what we should do, or how we should behave if there were women instead of half-women”

“I have seen the ultimate natural decay of authoritarian government, which is complete stagnation. But I still do not see how democracy can be made to last long enough to develop character in a sufficient number of people, […] for once the truth has come back to the world the authoritarian form of government must collapse”

Katharine Burdekin, Svastika Night, 1937

I discovered Burdekin when I was in my twenties thanks to a friend; as we were both part of a feminist group, being one of the leaders she came up with some suggestions on powerful sci-fi books we could read on our own or discuss together. Svastika Night was among the books she suggested. I don’t remember why we ended up not discussing any of the novels, but I do remember reading Burdekin’s dystopian tale on the world turned into an all-male, Hitler-loving, German-led colony blew my mind. I had never read anything like that and it had a profound impact on me and my future as a novelist. After a few years, leaving both my hometown and the group behind, I realized Burdekin’s lucid insight on the inter-connectedness between sexism and dictatorship had become one of the main legacies of my post-teenage/young adult years: I kept coming back to its memory, until I managed to find my way back to the novel itself, finding a copy for sale.

The first thing that makes this book astounding is the timing of its composition: Burdekin had her novel published (under a male pseudonym) in 1937, well before Hitler invaded Poland (1939) and well before Orwell created Nineteen Eighty-Four (1948), his own fictional version of totalitarianism which, unlike Svastika Night, is universally recognized as a worldwide classic today. Seen through our 21st century eyes, Burdekin’s ability to predict the cultural annihilation fostered by the Nazi regime while revealing the sexist implications of any form of dictatorship testifies to her genius; and yet, Burdekin’s novel never managed to acquire a status similar to Orwell’s. Was it because Svastika Night was written by somebody who indisputably showed a strong interest in both socialist and communist ideas, whereas Orwell didn’t? Or was it because, unlike Orwell, its mysterious author was courageous enough to show how inherently connected tyranny and man’s will to subjugate women can be?

Despite not including any important female character (a deliberate and inevitable choice, given the nature of the world described in the story), Svastika Night is first and foremost a feminist novel as well as a dystopian one. The main concept the book is based on is male superiority (or rather supremacy), seen as the quintessence of the totalitarian universe initiated by Hitler, soon turned into a god-like figure and worshipped accordingly in a cult-like, universal religion called Hitlerianism. As the prayer cited above may suggest, the world imagined by Burdekin (and directly inspired by the speeches delivered by Hitler in the 1920s and the early-mid 1930s) is shaped to mirror men’s purportedly absolute perfection and beauty, homoeroticism here conceived not as a revolutionary, queer-oriented political stance but merely as a consequence of male supremacy over all other possible genders and biological shapes. As for women, they are reduced to inconsequential vessels for male sperm and kept in cages as cattle, shaved, silent and ultimately turned into subhuman creatures subject to all sorts of violence  ̶  including rape  ̶  granted by law to men as their supreme rights. The only function women are given in this bleak world is that of bearing male children, who will be stripped from their arms after eighteen months to make sure that men will raise them as authentic Hitlerians, that is, as glorious, belligerent men unsullied by women’s loathsome touch – unless those same women gave birth to girls, dismissed as mere byproducts of men’s sacred right to have sex and thus left to rot in cages along with their mothers. It all seems so perfect to Alfred, the English pilgrim visiting Germany to see the sites where Hitlerianism was born with his own eyes. But what if women, though apparently meek and passive, no longer gave birth to girls? What if their minds and bodies, so strained by the sense of meaninglessness female life is constantly characterized by, refused to create other women, as if to avoid them any possible suffering in the future, erasing them before they were even born? Would the perfect all-male race still continue to walk the earth, were women not simply treated as inferior, but wiped off the face of the earth? What if, as the powerful Knight Von Hess suggests, Hitler was not really a God but just a man, born out of woman just like any ordinary human being? What if the past was different, its difference implying women could be as blessed with intellectual complexity as men?

I think many of the questions raised by the author in the book are still crucial today, in our post-modern, post-human world where empowerment and visibility for minorities sadly coexist with a re-emergence of authoritarianism, democracy’s imprint on people’s lives being more and more on the wane. As selfish individualism and hatred towards the Other are growing exponentially, taking root in our careless brains, the truth Burdekin mentions is itself becoming more and more distant from our mindlocked existence, stagnating into social media bliss and historical (political) ignorance. Last but not least, though feminism may have become popular today once again, our “civilized” world is a long way from turning its core values upside down: surely women are not kept in cages, but most of the human values we subconsciously consider as basic to our existence are still masculine, or rather, inherently sexist towards anyone who is not male, Caucasian, straight, rich, national(istic) and Protestant (or Catholic, depending on which religious facet power came to embody in the country we are living in). These elements make Svastika Night more than just a classic but also a philosophical exploration on the derailment of history and memory, something we tend to disregard and forget, lost as we are in our multi-tasking but mono-dimensional present.