martes, 6 de septiembre de 2016


Hello, and welcome to a new post cycle called "The Westerner as Foreigner".
It depicts the POV that Easterners and post-colonialists have of Europe and Christianity, which are "foreign" to them and only known from afar, from trade, warfare, diplomacy, or all three roots. We Westerners are foreign and strange outside our lands, after all,

These are excerpts from a subversive, feminist retelling of King Lear, set in the Middle East at the close of the Roman era. Desta, the Regan character (middle child/sister/princess), marries a young Roman nobleman called Valerius, the son of a prefect, Europe being connected to her Christian Middle Eastern kingdom by trade and by religion. Notice the wording the author uses.
First of all, Desta is primarily defined by her voice as a public speaker and her devotion to religion and history (while her older sister is defined by her graceful dance and beautiful attire, and the youngest one by her brains and knowledge of countless formal languages).

The next oldest, lark-voiced Desta, offered the formal chant of greeting. At temple, the people debated if her voice or her faith made her sung words sweetest.
(Eldest sister Ayana and Desta) were fine girls, talented and lovely, and, for at least the few heartbeats that it had taken them to enter the room, properly deferential.

Their father asks them, one by one and in birth order, how much they love him, in true King Lear fashion:

(Desta and Ayana) exchanged worried glances, but said nothing.
(Desta and Ayana) clutched hands with each other, and still said nothing.

“Desta. It is your turn. What will you say?”
“Negus of Neguses, I was afraid of this duty, sure that it would mean being yoked to a man who does not share our faith, but I begin to see that there is hope. I love you and honor you as I love our faith and history.” She walked over to his desk and lifted a beautifully engraved bronze cup. “You are worth more to me than even the cup carried by Abba Salama–Bishop Frumentius–who brought Christianity to our kingdom, and was slave and cupbearer to Negus Ezana before he became our Bishop.” Desta filled the cup with an exceedingly costly wine that her father had imported from Laodicea, and offered it to her father in the manner of a servant or priest. “Our faith and history teaches us how a servant may be put by God in the place where he can do the most good. I will serve you in this, as a servant of the realm. Marry me even to a man who is not of our faith if that is what the kingdom needs.”
The Negus smiled. “Wise girl. You see the value in service, and in the gifts of the west from Greece and Rome. Our faith. Bronze. The most precious wines of Italy. There is a young man from Rome here, from the bloodline of that same Emperor Theodosius who converted his whole empire to our Lord this past spring. His father is the Praefectus Augustalis who governs Egypt. This young prince of Rome will make a Christian home with you here, and assure that Rome trades favorably with us. We will plan your wedding the week after your sister’s, and Bishop Frumentius himself will consecrate the marriage.
“You must marry eventually,” Desta reasoned (to her younger sister). “What if something happened to both of us and our children? Then, the heir would need to come from you.”
After the youngest sister is banned from court:
As Desta’s wedding day arrived a week later, the two couples met in secret.
“So, you think the sandals will only work for someone that participated in your festival?” Desta’s suitor Valerius interrupted.
Valerius looked at his betrothed with concern.
“If you father doesn’t accept the chappals tonight, I will take them and race through this boiling lava to find your sister,” Valerius offered. “Let me prove by this act that I will make a good husband for you, Desta.”
That night, at the feast in the Roman style, the Negus chewed and chewed his first plate of unseasoned meat, and glared at his rebellious children and their suitors.
“Again? Am I never to enjoy a feast again?”
“Just admit that you miss her, and we can find her, and figure this out,” Desta pleaded. “Please. It’s my wedding day. I can’t bear that she isn’t here.”
“Negus of Neguses,” Valerius added. “I am sure you know that in the Roman style, we will eat many courses. We will eat until we are full, and then vomit until we have room for more, and eat again.”
The Negus paused with his fork in mid-air.
Ayana nudged a small sealed bottle of garum, a sauce made from salted fish and popular in Rome, towards where her father was sitting. “It really is delicious with the sauce.”
The Negus grabbed the small bottle of garum and drenched the flavorless meat with it. He took one extremely satisfying bite before standing.

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