Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Across The Acheron - Monique Wittig

They don’t write them like this any more. Rather, they are probably getting written, but there are very few publishers prepared to offer such intelligent fare. Which is a great shame because this is a powerful book.

This is Wittig’s version of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Variously labelled ‘feminist’ and ‘lesbian’, it is all that but so much more. For this journey through Limbo and Hell shows us the experience of women in all its raw and visceral truth. The souls she encounters are of those who have abused, mutilated, and brainwashed by socities around the world who treat women as inferior objects. It is a passionate book by turns funny and disturbing, surreal and all too horribly real.

Written with great intensity, each vignette is poetic yet stark. Wittig’s use of language is not especially complex or convoluted. She drives home her point time and again with concise, simple to understand words. And this makes the work all the more powerful. It is the testament of ordinary women using ordinary words.

As an advocate for feminisim, Wittig is passionate. She loves women and she feels their pain because it is her pain. As a writer, she is superb. Controlled, intelligent, witty, using language in the most effective manner. Nor is she afraid to forgo convention; not in experiment for experiment’s sake (although there is a place for that), but simply in striving to use the medium to its very best effect. In this she succeeds. For that alone I would admire this book. Combined with the message it conveys, I have no hesitation in saying it is one of the very best books I have ever read.