DFL’S COMMENTS ON ‘ODALISQUE’ BY PF JEFFERY
Chapter 12 – Lactation
SPOILER: Time goes at different speeds throughout this novel. This chapter speeds up greatly towards its end and covers a few years, with our heroine’s daughter growing up - leading to a cruelly and poignantly unpredicted departure from each other at the end of the chapter.
Dynastic matters exhiliratingly dealt with, up front and as foreboding undercurrent. There are also scenes of both gentle sex acts and not so gentle between the women.
Description of slave milk and its purposes and its adulterations. Just one example of some fictional conceits that only this novel could possibly deal with and actually ‘make true’.
Some snippets below that attracted me for aesthetic as well as telling-plot reasons:
We crossed one of the main thoroughfares of the camp just ahead of a troop of cavalry. The girls and their horses were alike bedecked with splendid white and scarlet plumes; their armour gleamed in the sunshine. Mud, churned by the passage of oxen and heavy carts oozed between my toes. The smell suggested that beast muck was mingled with the mud, and both Rosa and I paused to wipe our feet on the grass at the far side of the road.
There had been a time when I would have instantly and indignantly denied the slur on my intelligence. More than a year in slavery had taught me a great deal of worldly wisdom. Slaves in this tent, I felt certain, perceived as intelligent would be watched more sharply and punished more harshly. Fortunately, from a slave’s selfish point of view, few overseers are sufficiently clever to avoid manipulation by their charges – although, of course, I realise that this is unfortunate for the state in general.
And our heroine’s daughter learning to talk is beautifully handled, e.g:
“Mummy miquip,” she said one day.
“That’s right, sweetheart. Mummy’s making a whip.”
This, describing much of my daily activity, was repeated with a large number of variations. She absorbed most of the words and phrases from me and my fellow slaves. Derriluh was her early approximation to Fundafice’s 'Oh dear oh law'. My friend laughed until tears trickled down her cheeks, the first time she heard Tuerquelle say it.
“Mummy miquip. Plah leh. Derrilah.”
One is ‘treated’ with a terrible descriptive example of punishment in this connection:
She said that when slaves absconded, they were stealing their mistresses’ property – then continued at length on the wickedness of theft and virtues of obedience.
Rosa’s haste had not permitted me do so at the crossroads.
Word docs of the actual chapters are freely available to readers of this blog.
The links to all Chapter comments by me are here: http://weirdmonger.blogspot.com/2008/06/odalisque.html
Posted by: newdfl on 7/20/2008 7:50:45 AM , 1 comments
Submitted by Pet at 7/20/2008 9:05:19 AM
Typo corrected -- thanks!
I am especially pleased that you like Tuerquelle learning to talk. This was introduced during the most recent round of revisions. Weirdly, in previous versions, Tuerquelle learning to walk and talk was covered in a single sentence. Coming to the final revision, I thought (belatedly) "no! that's wrong!" Then, when I analysed the wrongness, "what mother wouldn't give more space to these matters?" The text needed to do justice to these important stages in the child's life without trying the reader's patience. I wished to avoid, on the one hand, the brevity of previous versions without, on the other hand, boring the reader with the literary equivalent of an entire album of baby pictures.