Saturday, 5 January 2019

'Another Sea'

Continuing this review of Inner Europe we come to John Howard's tale of exile, return, and the old religion. The story is set in London, and concerns the so-called Baltic states - Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The often tragic history of those nations is woven into the fabric of the tale, which concerns the newly-restored independence of the three nations, and some strange events that follow.

The narrator is a London-born Lithuanian, closely concerned with the restoration of the ancient trading links that once enriched the famous Hanseatic League. But, beneath the veneer of nostalgia and patriotism, there is something else going on. This is a Machenesque tale of mystery beneath the commonplace. We learn that a pre-Christian form of worship survives among some of the Baltic peoples, and that some are in search of a fabled temple. 

This is a solid, satisfying story, interweaving history with myth, and offering intriguing mystical artefacts in the form of amber lenses. The amber trade that once enriched the Baltic region is tied to the old worship, but using the lenses to try and find proof of pagan faith proves problematic. As in some of Machen's tales, confrontation with mystical truth is unbearable, even to the best of us. 

With this, the fourth story of thirteen, I note recurring themes and ideas - deep cultural links across national boundaries, the truth lying hidden beneath the banal and conventional, the dangers of intolerant ideologies. I wonder what the next story will bring? Drop back in a day or so and find out. 

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