Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by MizB where you share ‘teasers’. I’ve adapted it a bit to include more information about the book and longer teasers.

Yesterday I finished reading Where Three Roads Meet by Salley Vickers. I borrowed it from the library simply because I’ve enjoyed other books by Salley Vickers –  in particular Miss Garnet’s Angel and Mr Golightly’s Holiday.

Where Three Roads Meet is different, but just as good. It’s one of the Canongate Myths series, modern versions of myths told by a number of different authors. I’ve read others in the series – A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong, Weight by Jeanette Winterson (the myth of Atlas and Heracles) and The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood (the myth of Penelope and Odysseus).

It’s the Oedipus myth as told to Sigmund Freud during his last years when he was suffering from cancer of the mouth. Under the influence of morphine he is visited by Tiresias, a blind prophet of Thebes who tells him his version of the Oedipus story. In between telling the story, Freud and Tiresias discuss language and the origins of words. The point where the three roads meet is the place Oedipus and his father had their tragic meeting, setting in motion the sequence of events that led to his downfall and to the fulfilment of the prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother.

In Tiresias’s version Freud’s interpretation wasn’t quite right:

Because, if I may say so, here in all the world was the one person you could safely say didn’t have the complex you dreamed up for him. He was Oedipus, plain Oedipus. But not simple. What was complex about him was not that he wanted to sleep with his mother (as she herself said, that impulse is not so uncommon) nor even that he killed a man who had once threatened his life. Tit for tat, some might say. What was so remarkable was that his own safekeeping was usurped by the need to know what he needed not to know. (page 169)

This is a book with multiple layers, not a simple book. Although it’s easy enough to read it straight through, it is complex, with many ideas about life and death, and truth and ambiguity to ponder. Even if you know the story of Oedipus it seems fresh and new in this version. I found the details of the operations Freud had, their effect upon him and the terrible pain he suffered was quite shocking. All in all, a satisfying, entertaining and challenging book.

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