Thursday, February 22, 2007
Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles
Winterson, Jeannette. Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles. The book begins in a very heavy manner with the weight of the world--the physical world of sedimentary rock and fossilised remains, with layer after layer of strata that is twisted and folded to form this earth.
The slow and scientific build-up eventually leads to Poseidon and Earth, the parents of Atlas, and their courtship is told in a lovely metaphoric manner. (Words that echo throughout this re-telling: boundaries, nothing, infinite space, and "I want to tell the story again.")
Atlas joined the Titons in their war against the gods and lost. His punishment: the weight of the world.
Now that the background is established, enter Heracles, a rowdy, raucous, rapacious character. Heracles moves the somber and the serious to farce.
His first words: "Have a drink Atlas, you old globe. We've all got our burdens to bear. Your punishment is to hold up the universe. My punishment is to work for a wanker."
A trickster and a clown, Heracles (and his relationship with his step-mother Hera) is one of the highlights of Winterson's version of the myth. The contrast between Heracles and Atlas entertains, but makes you think.
I really don't know how to explain this re-telling because it circles back on itself. Again and again.
Winterson says, "What can I tell you about the choices we make?" and "I want to tell the story again." And she does. She does.
(I love the end)
Fiction. Myth. 151 pages. 2005.