Charles Gramlich blogged about resonance in his Razored Zen blog on September 26. He defined resonance as the “degree to which a name or a term evokes already existing associations in a person’s mind.” He suggested that words like “Freud,” “Jesus,” “Adolph,” and “steel” have mental weight that pack a punch for readers.
I came across another kind of resonance this week: resonance of situation.
The September 2007 issue of Locus contains an interview with Guy Gavriel Kay. (An excerpt can be found at http://www.locusmag.com/2007/Issue09_Kay.html.) He said that when he goes to countries or regions that have experienced political and cultural repression, such as Croatia, Poland, and Quebec, people ask whether his 1990 fantasy novel Tigana was based on their own history. In Korea, the novel is marketed as a political novel, not as fantasy.
Guy Gavriel Kay is one of my favorite authors, but Tigana left little impression on me. In fact, I could not remember anything about it, so I reread it this past week to see why I reacted so differently from the Croatians et al.
The answer was clear: Tigana tells the story of a conquered land whose name has not only been changed but also erased from history, and its architecture has been reduced to rubble. No one who was not born in Tigana can speak its name or hear it pronounced. Many of those who weren’t slaughtered by the king who conquered them have fled to other regions. The plot follows a few Tiganians who are working to bring down the tyrant and revive Tigana.
The people of Croatia, Poland, and Quebec have experienced similar events; the people of the United States haven’t. The situation did not resonate with me when I read it a decade ago.
Ironically, that’s no longer true. After most of New Orleans was destroyed by the failure of the federal levees in 2005, some members of Congress suggested that New Orleans not be rebuilt, or be rebuilt elsewhere. The people of the Broadmoor neighborhood found a big green dot (representing a park) painted smack over Broadmoor on the first proposed rebuilding map. A diaspora of musicians took place, probably permanently changing New Orleans culture. Some of our historic buildings were destroyed or had to be torn down. I’ve had a small, bitter taste of what it means to have one’s political and cultural identity threatened with erasure. This time around, I’ll remember Tigana.