the blind atonement

two words: déjà vu?

i been here before

Two sisters. One betrays the other. The betrayed one dies young with a love unfulfilled. The traitor lives to a ripe old age and writes a self-reflexive novel to atone for her deeds. Sound familiar? I certainly smell a rat.

I read Atonement three weeks ago – I hated it. I’ve also just finished The Blind Assassin, eerily familiar, nested narrative and all – I didn’t mind it so much and I rue that my sentiments had been hijacked.

There are a few reasons I prefer The Blind Assassin. For one, Iris is likable. She doesn’t pretend to be anything but a bitter and lonely old bitch, and I like her for it. Her tragically-earned toilet cubicle wisdom is witty and cutting. It attests to the devastating calls she made in the past due to her mercurial switches between docility and unfettered vindictiveness. Now, her memoir is rendered in her obvious creativity, her intimate knowledge of loss, and her acerbic sense of humour.

She is not just a self-absorbed old cow, like Briony, trying to feel better. Iris honours her guilt. Here’s how. Spoiler alert!

There’s blood everywhere in The Blind Assassin, from Laura’s death in the opening line, to Iris’s in the end. Children are blinded to make dazzlingly intricate rugs and throats slashed for perverse glory and profit in Sakiel-Norn. In a parallel universe, young men die brutally in war (also in Atonement) so mercenary industrialists like Richard Griffen/Paul Marshall (both paedophiles) can prosper. Laura sacrifices her body for Alex’s freedom. Iris turns a blind eye to this and willingly morphs into a Snilfard, sacrificing her younger sister to Richard for what amounts to fancy clothes and tenuous status -Laura astutely recreates this transformation in her hand-tinting of the wedding photographs. In full-circle, Iris then offers her own sacrifice by forfeiting everything she has, including her daughter, to destroy Richard. She gives Laura posthumous credit for The Blind Assassin, and dedicates her life to preserving her memory wanting nothing in return, not forgiveness and certainly not accolades, just a selfless laying out of the truth without worry over libel or being dethroned. This is how she honours her sister in the end.


Another reason for preferring The Blind Assassin is the plot, even though it repeatedly depicts the same events from different paradigms just like Atonement. The Blind Assassin simply covers a more vast range of events and I don’t mean the two world wars as opposed to one. There’s a degenerating love-affair between a wealthy heiress and a fugitive; the rise and fall of a button dynasty; and the destruction of multiple alien civilizations – which in turn means seedy joints and public fornication; cannibalistic social-climbing; and marauding hot zombies! Hot zombies make everything awesome. I, for one, appreciate not being subject to the angst of a lone anile coot whose imagination stretches only as far as her pinocchial nose.

Speaking of which, both novels have an involuted  first-person author/narrator who constantly critiques the narrative process. The inherent existential question is astoundingly similar in exposition and resolve. I can’t stop thinking they’re the same goddamn novel. But take a wild guess which book was written first. The Blind Assassin has two years on Atonement.

So, here’s a third reason I prefer The Blind Assassin: It’s original! Either Ian knows Margaret extremely well, they may have gone to a philosophy/writing seminar together perhaps, shared long walks, synchronized their authorship crises even. Or this rat is beginning to stink.

déjà vu-teena marie
love dog-tv on the radio
fuck you-cee-lo
rabbit heart-florence and the machine

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