Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Titus Groan




…and Titus has entered his stronghold.

And that’s how this magnificently intriguing but difficult novel ends. Titus Groan, the heir of gormenghast who begins this novel with being born and ends this novel by becoming the 77th Earl of Gormenghast. That’s as much of a role he is playing so far.

The rest of this novel is being carried by his family and their servants. We meet such peculiar characters, that cannot exist outside this dystopian world where Castle Gormenghast plays the central role. 

I didn’t get much information of how and when and why the situation is as it is and maybe this is explained in the following novels, but in a way it’s part of its charm. Believe it or not, but even without knowing why or having means to compare it with, Titus Groan creates a world that feels nightmarish, even hellish in certain ways and which doesn’t let go until you’ve read the final words. Imagine a world where there are men whose sole purpose in life is scrubbing the filth of the walls in the kitchen, and have this task passed on them through birth right.

“ It had been their privilige on reaching adolescence to discover that, being the sons of their fathers, their careers had been arranged for them and that stretching ahead of them lay their identical lives consisting of an unimaginative if praiseworthy duty.”
The way it is mentioned gives me the idea that however drab their circumstances, they are in fact lucky. That there is even worse.

Forget what you know about logic, because Titus Groan needs its readers to expand their imagination beyond what you thought possible AND believe it could happen. In its pages it has created a dystopian, ritualistic and organized world where impulses from the outside are cut off. Its inhabitants, obligated or not, feel the weight of the castle and its ancestry and are each in their own way affected by the demure nature of having no other purpose than doing what has been told ages ago. And for me, the reader, it has a dreamlike quality because it is not explained why they go through the motions. Why is it important that every day has to be written down to such detail and that these instructions need to be carefully followed?  

The novel seems very precarious in its subject and it’s definitely not a book to read when I’m going to bed, but when it’s quiet and when I can concentrate it’s actually quite a good book. Not like  anything I’ve read so far and for me that’s kind of unusual.

Beside its setting, its characters and its story, Titus Groan is a very beautifully written novel which amazed me with how well it used the English language. It’s a trifle more difficult than other books I’ve written and a decade ago I wouldn’t have been able to continue reading, but even though progress is going slower, it gave me the opportunity to savor the way in which something was said, as much as what it entailed. It’s not a bad thing to be forced to take it slow, instead of rushing through chapters as I tend to do.


With all that I know now, I’m quite sure that it won’t be long before I’ll start in the next Gormenghast novel.