Thursday, February 21, 2019

Earthly Secrets!

Guiomar, a schoolgirl from Audierna, with hesitation goes to Mastrina Xaoven's house in the old quarter of Plugufan for Klavia classes, and she is offered that Mastrina will tell her a story in exchange for her dedication to learning the Klavia. In the background we sense that pertaining to historical segregation of Brun/Malluma community and Gwende people, demeanor for Brun people is still undignified. The story follows alternation between Guiomar accounting her visits to Mastrina's house and her personal affairs, and Mastrina telling the story to Guiomar in those visits. 1

1.       "I want to propose a deal: we'll divide your class time into two parts. If you invest a minimum amount of efforts in learning to play the Klavia, I'll tell you a story – a good one, too. It's about a girl just like you, perhaps a tiny bit older. It begins on the days went to one of those clubs in the nabrallos. I think you'll like it."



The story is about a Gwende girl Attica, nearly of Guiomar's age. In her disguised visit to Bragunde's decrepit quarters to take part in a concert where popular hicupé music is overwhelming she befriends a Malluma boy Fuco, who claims to be a firewalker, after they outwit the SAN agents. Fuco, takes her with him to meet Onga, a witch living in a cemetry, to know the riddle behind the Bragunde being plagued by scorpions on the street. Onga's revelation in her crypt, and a hint from a woman at the bar—from where Attica, caught by rebels, manages to free herself—draw their route to Morvane Tower, which as per the legend, where the entrance to the underworld of Nigrofe is situated. After another revelation by Onga and hearing Cecillio, a blind healer, about the Tartarus and the forthcoming evil in the land of Bragunde and Nigrofe—outcome of the disruption of balance between good and evil, when a sacred tree was uprooted, Attica and Fuco venture into a new journey into the Green Country, the underworld of Nigrofe.2 This makes the first part of the novel.


2.       "The subteran cult is based on balance," continued Onga. "The Malluma race professes the faith of its ancestors, which claims equality in the scales between good and evil. The balance is reflected in its two sacrred symbols: Dendria, the peach tree, represented good, while to Tartarus fell the mission of embodying evil, death that lies in wait, conscious of its victory, death. These two symbols lived side by side in Nigrofe, their balance maintained by the priests of Venquita Monastery."

The second part, Nigrofe, largely contains an adventurous tale of Attica and Fuco, who land in the fantastical and magical world full of hunters, thieves, mythical creatures, scorpions, rugged mountains, forests, friends and a powerful being called Birdman rolling the dies. And they must use gold and a peach stone to stop the evil before it is too late, finding their way to the Venquita—where captain Touro, the ruling colonel of Nigrofe has imprisoned all the women—where they are supposed to make brothers Dinis and Vinicius power-up their obelisk before knowing all the secrets for the demonic unraveling of the Tartarus, but what Attica and Fuco are told by Onga and Cecillio isn't enough!

"Newspaper and magazine cuttings, photocopies from encyclopaedias, adverts,…" put as if chapter headings provide a comic-strip dimension to the story uplifting the realm of fiction. The invented names (I suppose), particularly coined for the story, for which a glossary is provided at the end, is a playful approach to create parallel coexisting fictional world: Hicupé feels like the Jazz of the modern world. Mastrina tells the story with "One Thousand and One Nights" kind of cliffhangers that makes all the secrets coming together near the end all the more interesting, as far as that the novel ends in an episode leaving behind a trail for a sequel.

Tartarus is an adventurous tale of clash and harmony between good and evil and an audacious tale of little saviors of the world. 

Author: Antonio Manuel Fraga
Translator: Jonathan Dunne
Publisher: Small Stations Press
Page Count: 227
Price: $ 7.30

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Home by Leila S. Chudori  Translated from the Indonesian by  John H. McGlynn