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Sagas! - delta_november

Dec. 30th, 2014

05:16 pm - Sagas!

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I have always had a soft spot for the Icelandic Sagas, since I first read Egil's Saga in a stained-glass sunbeam in The Treehouse almost twenty years ago.  Yesterday, sitting in the ER, I read Kormak's Saga.  It does not disappoint, and I would suggest it to anyone looking to explore the roots of contemporary fiction.

Kormak's Saga (aka Cormac in my translation) is a gonzo blend of The Princess Bride and Chasing Amy.   It has, in no particular order:

The central plot is a romance who's complexity would not be out of place in a modern novel.  This is not a simple love story.

The saga has been out of copyright for 800 years, and so various translations can be downloaded for free.  You can also read a fun abridgement here at Sagas for the Impatient.  This will make you a better person, with far less of a personal time commitment than Proust.

Comments:

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From:probabilistic
Date:December 30th, 2014 11:41 pm (UTC)
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Interesting -- many of my socially conservative friends argue that no-fault divorce laws spelled the death of "traditional marriage" in the US. Curious where else they appear prior to modern Western civilization.
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From:delta_november
Date:December 31st, 2014 01:03 am (UTC)
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I use the term "no-fault" a little flippantly. But essentially in the story a woman decides that the marriage isn't working out, and tells her husband "this is over" and leaves. This is generally accepted by the community. A little while later she sends her brother over to pick up her things (cash and jewelry) and this causes some friction with the ex.

Marriages tend to be arranged in this culture. A man says "it's probably time I found a wife", and either his friend or his father will propose a name. Then they will go talk with her father. A marriage is a political union of two families, and is often proposed by a neutral third-party as a way to put an end to a blood-feud.

While it's tempting to look at the arrangement as a bunch of men deciding what to do with a woman, the saga contains an interesting counter-example. There is a wealthy widow who receives a proposal. She goes to her daughter to ask her opinion on the match.

Finally, there's a household where the wife is in charge of the farm, and the husband has a mistress who lives with him. It's no poly paradise -- the two ladies tolerate each other but don't really get along.

I'm of the opinion that "traditional marriage" is a platonic ideal who's demise is often lamented but which has never universally existed at any time in history.
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From:probabilistic
Date:December 31st, 2014 02:32 am (UTC)
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Yeah, by "traditional marriage" they're generally referring to something approximating the lifestyle of their grandparents' generation, which is pretty arbitrary. Personally I think the birth control pill had far more to do with the demise of "traditional" family structures than no-fault divorce did, but these discussions often ended in an "agree to disagree" situation.
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From:delta_november
Date:December 31st, 2014 12:38 pm (UTC)
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Of my four grandparents, two of them grew up in "broken homes". In one case the father abandoned the mother and child, and then re-married and had another family. In the other, the father came home from the First World War with shell-shock and drifted away. I don't know if legal divorces were obtained in either case, but the marriages were certainly over.

This is of course not a rigorous study of the whole generation, just a couple anecdotes connected to my family. But it makes me suspect that the Victorian and Edwardian ideals may not have been widely upheld.
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From:benicek
Date:December 31st, 2014 03:29 pm (UTC)
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Social conservatives in Britain will often hold up the family of the 1950s as some sort of ideal state. My father recalls being a child in 1950s Birmingham where the man in the house next door beat his wife regularly until she committed suicide.
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From:probabilistic
Date:January 1st, 2015 01:04 am (UTC)
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Yeah, I can think of many examples of people from that generation who stayed in very bad marital situations. I think they probably would have had cause for divorce under the laws in the US at that time*, but of course life was very difficult for divorced women with children at that time.

(*) If I recall correctly, no-fault laws were instituted not because people in abusive situations couldn't get out, but rather because couples who simply no longer wanted to remain married were perjuring themselves in order to invent a cause for divorce.
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From:benicek
Date:January 1st, 2015 12:25 pm (UTC)
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Surprisingly, no-fault divorce still isn't possible under England and Wales law. The best you can do (my sister and her ex had to do this) is separate for two years and then one partner petitions the other for divorce on grounds of separation-with-consent or desertion.
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From:benicek
Date:December 31st, 2014 03:22 pm (UTC)
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Why are you in ER so often, dare I ask?
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From:delta_november
Date:December 31st, 2014 04:05 pm (UTC)
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My partner J suffers from recurring metabolic acidosis of undiagnosed origin. About once a month she will require 3-7 days of hospitalization with telemetry and IV potassium, magnesium and bicarbonate to get her blood chemistry under control. Then she's discharged until it happens again. Between episodes she's basically functional.

Outpatient investigation has been ongoing for more than a year, but it's a really odd case with no resolution yet.
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From:benicek
Date:December 31st, 2014 04:11 pm (UTC)
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That's strange and concerning. I assume some kind of renal problem has been their first avenue of investigation. I notice in my job that doctors will never say 'we don't know'. They just haven't found out yet.
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From:delta_november
Date:December 31st, 2014 04:43 pm (UTC)
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Yep, kidneys are obviously involved as they are supposed to maintain the electrolyte homeostasis, but nephrology can't see anything wrong with them. There's a host of other icky stuff, including GI bleeds and complete hearing loss, but the chain of causality is not clear.

All of the obvious things have been ruled out, so now we're just going through the "10 people in the world have this particular syndrome" one by one.
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