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The darkness that comes before

A study in human psychology

At its core ‚The darkness that comes before‘ is a study in human psychology. Every character is basicaly a psychological question. Every major event a stage for additional exploration, a new set of cues to examine development and behaviour. And the fantasy world itself serves to expand the field of examination and the scope of possible answers.

Don’t get me wrong. There is also a fascinating tale, an interesting world with lots of details, passion and turmoil. But it’s the psychological setup that makes this triology stand out for me in the fantasy market. That and the beautiful language.

Literary constructivism

Bakker doesn’t bother much with an exposition. He throws the reader immediatly into a foreign world. But it’s the way he does it that makes this book so fascinating. From the very beginning he show us this world only throught the eyes, feelings and interpretations of one of the characters. There is not much of an omniscient narrator. There are no explanations. There is no other way for the reader to see and understand the world than to experience it together with one of the characters.

This is especially fascinating when one place is perceived through different characters. We see the Hagerna – a place of religious worship and power – first through the eyes of Achamian, a skeptic in the midst of the proclamation of a Holy War. It is a dangerous place for a disbeliever, a hazardous one for somebody perceived as an abomination, as a heretic. At the same time it is a place where extatic worship and religious passion are palpable.
How different is this place when we later visit it with Inrau – a pious priest. It then becomes a place of recolection, quiet solitude, spiritual contemplation and hope. The view from which we see the Hagerna changes and there is one interesting question: Is it the same place? Two seperate? Or something inbetween?
It’s constructivism at its best. Literary constructivism.

Questions about human psychology

Every character is a question about human psychology.

With Achamian we might ask what happens to a mind when – with the change of day and night – it exists in two different worlds, two different times, two different souls. How does such a mind anchor itself in any reality? What makes us connect to reality when everything is just a matter of projection?

Then there is Cinaüir – a member of a fierce tribe with all the tribal rules and myths. What happens to someone like him, somebody grounded in his clear-cut cultural views of the world, when he starts to doubt his heritage? Is there a way to be a member of a group and at the same time to doubt it’s beliefs?

And last but not least Kellhus: What are you if you can see past every thought, every behaviour, every human expression? The devil or the saint?

‚The darkness that comes before‘ is a very unusual take on fantasy literature and a fascinating one.

Review on Goodreads


Eine Antwort zu “The darkness that comes before”

  1. Mr. T sagt:

    I like what you are implying: there are more psychologies than just the human variable. Have you given it some thought what the other fields might be. Many a pet-holder exclaim quite shrilly that their respective animal obviously do have a psyche. One can easily see that animals have different tempers and traits such as trustfulness towards other living beings. Yet the temper is most likely explainable with genetic influence and traits like trustfulness could well be explained by referring to prior learning processes and cluster-memory. And again: most of us do „feel“ an other soul when looking in the eyes of humanoid (excluding spiders and so on here) creature. Is it a necessity to have a self-awareness to have a psyche? Good for orang utans and dolphins then – here many scientists deduced a self-awareness. One might throw in that humans might not know how to operationalize these experiments with other animals and thus wrongly assume them having no self-awareness. And then again: we do not know how to explain our own self-awareness. Is it simply a „higher“ quality of sensory computing? Is it a co-dependent parasite consisting of neuronal structures and energy (yeah, that sounds freaky alright)?
    What we do know for sure so far is: whenever a this issue is thrown in the ring many react very intensely in supporting their wanted discussion outcome.
    I just realized how far I have gone off your original topic. Sorry for that. I am going to hit „post-it“ anyways. Greetings to all the readers out there.

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