Original language: English

Original title: Hex

Translation: Jesus Cuellar

Year of publication: 2022

Valuation: Disappointing

The Berwick witch trials, at the end of the 16th century, are some of the best known among the many that took place in Europe in search of dark powers, suspicious cures and curses. Apparently, King James was returning from his wedding in Denmark and was surprised by terrible storms, which caused people to look for those responsible for causing such phenomena to put an end to him. Through the widespread use of torture, the usual trail of denunciations began, while old quarrels were avenged, uncomfortable people were subdued, and terror was consolidated in the face of dissent or simply in the face of conduct that called into question the religious, moral, and finally, political.

Jenni Fagan takes as the protagonist one of those witches, Geillis Duncan, just a teenager who for some reason was chosen to be eliminated and whose confession, obtained in that way, served as a step to condemn other women of greater public significance, especially Euphame McCalzean, whose social and economic position gave rise to certain desires to get her out of the way. Geillis is going to be executed, and in her cell, where she has been raped repeatedly, she receives a visit from Iris, a woman from the 21st century who accompanies her in her last hours.

What seems like it could be a narrative full of fantasy with Gothic overtones, however, becomes something else. Instead of receiving an extraordinary being from the future, it seems that the jailer has let a friend of Geillis’s enter the dungeon so that the poor thing can have a little conversation before dying on the gallows. So Iris, obviously in solidarity with the alleged witch, spends a few pages presenting the feminist discourse typical of her time. At the base of witchcraft trials, Iris seems to defend, there is no background of popular lack of culture, religious alienation, parochial interests or political maneuvers, only the desire to punish women for being women, the depraved impulse of obsessed men. for the integrity of their cocks (sic), a kind of atavistic fear of those whom they cannot submit in any other way.

And well, the rest of the long conversations between the victim and his visitor are nothing more than a dull chat, full of commonplaces, reflections on injustice and violence, rants barely disguised as pathos and lyrical outbursts, flashes of unjustified magic, all of which has as its greatest virtue the brevity of its barely one hundred pages.

The idea wasn’t a bad one, and it made for a perhaps attractive story. Nor was the possibility of raising a reflection on a possible gender approach in the persecution of witchcraft, or a game of contrasts between the ideological perspective of our century and that of the beginning of the Modern Age, negligible. I don’t know, there were possibilities of doing a few interesting things, perhaps in other formats, but Jenni Fagan chooses the worst option, a succession of dialogues, sometimes successive monologues, without nerve, with a forced and not at all credible background that sometimes sounds The school performance, even though it is adorned with a kind of stage directions that present each scene in a rather effective way.

Only the last pages have a more intense tone, more suggestive images and a livelier rhythm. Fagan would have done well to apply the same criteria to the rest of the book. But although this last push leaves a somewhat more rewarding flavor, it still does not free us from disappointment.

Source: https://unlibroaldia.blogspot.com/2024/02/jenni-fagan-maldicion.html

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