Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Mythago Wood - A Journey Through the Psyche

I read quite a lot as a child and teenager and, like many treasured memories from our childhoods, many of my favourite books have somewhat lost their sheen as I've grown older. So it was very little expectation that I returned to a fondly remembered book from my early teens; Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock. My memory of that novel was of a fantastical story involving the then fascinating concept of racial consciousness and a mysterious wood in which figures from imagination came to life. However there is much more to this book than that, as it is one of those great works of literature that has more and more secrets and lessons to divulge on each read.

The premise of Mythago Wood is fascinating and in many ways unique to my experience. Here we have an ancient wood in which the racial memories of local people, their subconscious imaginings of great heroes and historical figures, are incarnated in corporeal form. So far, so Disney, you might think. However, what Holdstock does brilliantly well is bring these figures back in a vivid, unapologetic, unsettling, and often threatening way. Here is a portrayal of our ancestors in their most unromantic form - filthy, violent and alien.