quizcustodiet: (Default)
[personal profile] quizcustodiet
I just finished Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana. It was quite a fun book, and I enjoyed it - however, I found myself irritated by two facets of the narrative. I'm going to discuss them under a cut, to spare anyone who doesn't want to be spoiled about the novel.

The first issue I had is really central to the book: in fact, this book has suddenly made me understand an aspect of Catholicism's just war teaching that always seemed wrong to be previously.

To wit, it is assumed throughout that all true Tiganese wanted to fight Brandin's troops by the banks of Deisa. Indeed, there's a conversation between the Prince of Tigana and his sculptor (?) in which the sculptor says that he would have disowned the Prince had the Prince surrendered to Brandin.

Now, it appears to me that no one was in any doubt that Tigana was going to lose in the end: they knew that even if they could beat Stevan, they'd get crushed as soon as Brandin turned his attention their way. In those circumstances, it seems to me that they definitely should have surrendered. All that they accomplished by fighting was to kill a lot of people on both sides and to call down Brandin's vengeance on Tigana. (For that matter, would it have been so hard to just _knock Stevan out_? Cut off a hand? Something?)

Brandin's vengeance leads me on to the second thing that annoyed me about the book. Throughout Alessan, Catriana, Baerd and Devan all talk a lot about how they're fighting to overthrow the tyrants to bring back Tigana's name. I'm clearly revealing a tin ear for romance here, but I don't think that that's a good enough reason to kill an awful lot of people. Nor - despite the pretence of an argument about it - do I think that it's really addressed in the book.

I find it particularly strange given that it seemed to me that the random barbaric executions were more than enough reason to lead people to fight against Alberich. Yet that type of evil only gets mentioned occasionally in comparison to the loss of Tigana's name.

Thinking about it, actually, I think the major problem with me buying into Alessan's crusade was that despite the two 'tyrants' being classed as equal, Brandin seemed like quite a nice guy overall. There was a token effort at making him evil with the tribute ships and the treatment of wizards (though we didn't actually see any Ygrathen wizard-hunters). Other than the genuinely disturbing/evil treatment of the Fool (only revealed very late on in the novel) we were quite short on reasons to hate Brandin. Actually, he seemed like quite a nice guy overall. So the only real reason to want to overthrow him seems to have been to get Tigana's name back. I'm not buying that as an excuse for killing people, sorry.

Date: 2008-09-08 09:41 pm (UTC)
wychwood: Malcolm labelled "shoot first (and call whatever you hit the target)" (Ent - shoot first)
From: [personal profile] wychwood
This is something I go back and forth on a lot in my head - not so much this sort of instance, but in terms of "what is worth dying for?". Is it worth dying for your faith? Is it better to hide your beliefs and survive? What good does martyrdom do? *Should* we fight for our ideals? I don't think that killing for ideals, or sending others to die for them, is right, but if I personally feel that strongly about something, is it worth doing? What's more important, our lives or ideals that we hope will survive us? I really have no idea where the balance ought to fall on that.

Tigana is that sort of ideal for them, versus the fact that, pragmatically, Brandin isn't that bad a guy and his rule is not especially brutal and whatever. So, well. I don't know. But if you find an interesting discussion of the issue, let me know?

Date: 2008-09-08 09:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] quizcustodet.livejournal.com
I see what you mean - I think, though, that there's a significant difference between martyrdom and making war: other people die too.

So I don't dispute the ability of the Tiganese who died at the Deisa to make the choice to die: what I object to is them killing Brandin's Ygrathens. Deciding that you'd rather die than live under Brandin? Fine. It's the decision to kill Brandin's Ygrathens knowing that it will make no difference in the long term that I object to.

Date: 2008-09-08 09:55 pm (UTC)
wychwood: Teyla would have killed you already, but she's too polite (SGA - Teyla kill you)
From: [personal profile] wychwood
Yeah, that's where it breaks down a bit. But assuming you accept the validity of war at all, there's still... I mean, there are enough instances where people have won battles against apparently overwhelming odds; saying "we can't win, so let's not fight" is the best way to guarantee you'll never succeed. Fighting for apparently hopeless causes is a great human tradition *g* - and I agree, it leads to horrific waste of life, in all directions, but it's not necessarily meaningless.

Plus, even if you lose you can influence public opinion (within your own faction, in the wider world, within your *enemy's* sphere of influence... being a "plucky little fighter" can sometimes win you points with your opponent, though it's more likely to get you crushed in general), you can ensure the survival of your cause beyond your own generation...

I don't know. I suspect that I do actually agree with you, but it's been a long time since I read Tigana, and I don't remember enough of the detail to sustain an actual discussion on it *g*.

Date: 2008-09-09 09:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] midnightmelody.livejournal.com
I still can't decide whether I agree with you. Here are my thoughts so far.

Yes, in just war terms Tigana certainly should have surrendered. In character terms there was no way they were going to. The Tiganese flaw is pride, they would rather die than be subject to anyone else's rule, and if they're going to die anyway, they might as well inflict some pain on the tyrant who intends to rule them. The 'pride' thing is mentioned at least once every 50 pages, including in the prologue. I think we're meant to get swept up in the crusade despite their flaw, but I can see how it might be a sticking point for the suspension of disbelief.

I'm afraid I suspend my pacifist/just war principles when I read fantasy, because the army are rarely painted as nice people who chose the wrong side. GGK does better than most by having lots of people from the Peninsula being killed in the final battle, and by showing Brandin (and his soldiers) so much through Dianora's eyes. There's ambiguity woven throughout Tigana, and a hundred opportunities to empathise with Brandin and the bound sorceror and others who oppose Alessan.

Are the tyrants classed as equal beyond the minds of Alessan et al, and the pragmatic problem of getting rid of both of them? They're certainly not presented as equal to Dianora, or the citizens of the Palm.

Slipping back into our universe (as GGK's afterword does), the effects of deleting a culture and history are catastrophic, particularly for children - and I'm not sure this is captured by the concept of Tigana's 'name'. Reuven Feuerstein has spent his life treating Jewish youngsters who were not inducted into any culture (because of the Holocaust and various dispossessions), and they have no way to make meaning, very few of the skills we expect from pre-schoolers. The Tiganese are also fighting for their freedom to self-rule, which seems to be a common enough reason to fight in our own world. This does not justify their pride, which is pointed out at every possible moment, but it does begin to explain their reactions, at least to my reading.

I'm really not sure how much of this is agreeing with you. :)


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