JUDY KRAVIS

www.roadbooks.ie

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

The Ice Palace

The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas runs so close to the bone that helplessly I have to say what happens, in my own words (if possible).

An eleven year-old girl, newly arrived in the village, has a secret she is almost ready to tell her new friend Siss  They have looked into the same mirror and found themselves there, in gleam and radiance, in Unn's tiny bedroom, with the door locked. I may not go to heaven, she says, and Siss suddenly has to go home although she is trembling with eagerness to stay. Next day Unn cannot face Siss, so she goes off for the day in her thick coat and double mitts, with her school satchel, to the Ice Palace, built on a waterfall that froze as it fell as it rose. The further into the rooms of the Ice Palace, the startling character of each room, the dismissal, room by room, including the shedding of the thick coat and the satchel, the more you know that Unn and her secret will freeze there, glimpsed once by Siss and no one else. In Spring, with the thaw, Unn would crash with the river with her secret and her satchel, her thick winter coat and her double mitts; and Siss would slowly learn to come back to life.

Each room of the ice palace is particular: a room of tears, an ice forest, a narrow room, a fissure abandoned by the water, and then the new room, which, for a while, was a miracle. 

Alice in Wonderland. The mouse's tears. Dante's Divine Comedy. Purgatorio and Paradiso. Unn in the ice palace excruciates the reader. The sum of a child's worst fears, deepest compulsions, and yet transcendent.

Tarjei Vesaas in his sixties had intact in him the passions of an eleven year-old girl, he understood the sharing of selves, the overwhelming sameness of two people, the safe haven and then the need to avoid it.

So little is said. So little happens. Yet everything is there, as, under ice like steel, fronds and seeds are caught below, and then covered with the snow when it comes.

No comments :

Post a comment