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Fiction

Where Three Roads Meets By Salley Vickers

Canongate Myth Series no. 3

Like Oedipus, we live in ignorance of the wishes so offensive to morality with which nature has burdened us and following the unveiling of which we should no doubt all rather look away from the scenes of our childhood.Sigmund Freud, Interpreting Dreams

Sigmund Freud lies ill. A man whose work, whose very life, has depended on the power of speech has now been all but silenced by cancer of the jaw. In the waking darkness he received a strange visitor, who has come to tell a story that Freud will recognize: the tale of Oedipus.

For those who do not know exactly what happen in Oedipus, here’s the gist of it:

Oedipus, the son of Laius, King Thebes, and Jocasta, is exposed as an infant because an oracle had informed the father that his as yet unborn son would be his murderer. He is rescued and grows up as the son of a king at a foreign court until, unsure of his origins, he consults the oracle himself and is advised to avoid going home since he is destined to become the murderer of his father and husband to his mother.

On the way from what he thinks of as home, he encounters King Laius and kills him in a fight that erupts swiftly. He then approaches Thebes, where he solves the riddle posed by the Sphinx barring the way; the grateful Thebans express their thanks by making him king and giving him Jocasta’s hand in marriage. He rules for many years in peace and honour and , together with the women he does not know to be his mother, has two sons and two daughters – until a plague breaks out, occasioning a fresh consultation of the oracle, this time by the Thebans.

Shattered by his unwittingly performed atrocity, Oedipus blinds himself and abandons his homeland. The words of the oracle are fulfilled.

The tale of King Oedipus is perhaps the most unsettling for me, for two reasons. One, due to the horror of patricide and the incestuous affair. Second, perhaps why his fate grips us is because it might also have been our own. From our first sexual stirring at our mother, our first hatred and violent wish at our father; our dreams persuade us of that, and Oedipus tragedy is simply the wish-fulfillment of our childhood years.

The story of Where Three Road Meet begin with the Thebans oracle meeting with Oedipus. But this is a different account of what happened when Oedipus met his father at the place where three roads meet.

The point where a road divides and one arm strikes northwest in a steep defile towards Delphi, while the other skirts the foot of Parnassus and winds eastward towards the fertile plains of Daulis. Depending on your point of view, it could be a place of divergence of convergence.

The third road, leads back to Thebes, a t this point, the road branches; and on the other hand, here is where the two roads – the one from Daulis, the other from Delphi connect with each other. So it’s a matter of which way you happen to travelling, a widening of choice, or a narrowing.

From the god’s perspective all ways are the same and all roads will be travelled in the end. It’s only a matter of time.

Rating: 4/5

It is a delightful read, except that I have to backtrack several times to make sure whose words that is uttered by whom. The myth series at least for this book and Girls meet boys by Ali Smith take this unspecified voice dialogue approach, which can be quite confusing. We were made to understand the strange visitor that visited Freud might be the result of Freud’s palliative intake and hallucination, the Theban oracle, Tiresias. I like the ending when the fate of Oedipus and Freud are converged. This book is a different account of what happened when Oedipus met his father at the place where three roads meet. The retelling of the story of this great tragedy is enlightening as well as unexpected. It is also a deeply moving portrait of the last days of Freud.

The ambiguity of religious pronouncement merely encourages a mystification designed to bolster the authority of those who make the pronouncements. – Freud page 49

I am reading this for A to Z challenge.

Paperback. Publisher: Canongate 2007; Length: 197; Setting: Greek Mythology Finished reading at: 12 May 2010

About the writer:

Salley Vickers was born in Liverpool in 1948. Her mother was a social worker and her father a trades union leader, both members of the British communist party until 1956 and then very committed socialists. She was brought up in Stoke-on-Trent and London, and read English Literature at Cambridge University. Following this, she taught children with special needs and then English literature at Stanford, Oxford and the Open University and was a WEA and further education tutor for adult education classes.

She then trained as an Jungian analytical psychotherapist, working in the NHS and also specialised in helping people who were creatively blocked. She gave up her psychoanalytic work in 2002, although she still lectures on the connections between literature and psychology. She now writes full time and lives in London.

Her father was a committed supporter of Irish republicanism and her first name, ‘Salley’, is spelled with an ‘e’ because it is the Irish for ‘willow’ (from the Latin: salix, salicis) as in the W B Yeats poem, “Down by the salley gardens” a favourite of her parents. She has two sons from her first marriage. In 2002, her second marriage, to the Irish writer and broadcaster Frank Delaney, was dissolved.

In 2002, she was a judge for the Booker Prize for Fiction.

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About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.

Discussion

12 thoughts on “Where Three Roads Meets By Salley Vickers

  1. I had to write a very long essay about Sigmund Freud once and I have hated reading about him ever since.

    By the way if you choose the same theme for your blog as I’m trialing there are plenty of ways to customise it so it would look different (you can choose your header and background colour and that sort of thing). Besides, all it means is that great minds think alike 🙂

    Posted by bernadetteinoz | May 15, 2010, 8:17 am
  2. This book sounds really interesting. I’ve always wanted to read the Interpretation of Murder but never got the chance to. Alas. Anyway, this Myth series is starting to intrigue me 🙂 Thanks for sharing !

    Posted by Joanna | May 15, 2010, 2:48 pm
  3. What an interesting book. Freud seems to have an obsession with Oedipus, doesn’t he? This mythology appears many times in Interpretation of Murder. I too find this story disturbing.

    Posted by Anamika | May 17, 2010, 3:51 am
    • Hi Ana, I was about to start The Interpretation of Murder as my next book, but I got side track. Disgrace by J.M Coetzee mentioned a Oedipus quote too on 2nd page! There is just this little link that links up every book in the universe!

      Posted by JoV | May 18, 2010, 7:39 pm
  4. Hehe, you´re really well into the Myth series! 😀 This one sounds really interesting, and the Oedipus myth has always fascinated me. Hope there´s not too much psychoanalysis in this book?! I´ve had to endure this approach to literature too much in my studies 🙂

    Posted by Bina | May 18, 2010, 8:51 pm
  5. Hi Bina, there isn’t any psychoanalysis in this book! A little philosophying maybe. I’ve got another book of myth series on my stack and stumbled upon a few more titles of myth not in the myth series! So it’s great, I’am building the myth book lists. 🙂

    Posted by JoV | May 19, 2010, 7:18 am

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: The Read-A-Myth Reading Challenge is launched! Come Join us! « Bibliojunkie - October 13, 2010

  2. Pingback: My past year’s read on Mythology | The Read-A-Myth Reading Challenge - June 4, 2011

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Mockingjay
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City


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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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