What a way to finish the year. A deceptively simple yet stunningly beautiful short novel by this Norwegian master. A adolescent story of friendship , told in a magical lyrical language. At the outset, there is nothing appears great in this book. Unn, comes to a small town in Norway, orphaned after the death of her mother. She is aloof and does not mingle with the rest of the class in her school, despite the efforts of her classmates. Siss, the de facto leader of the gang tries to befriend her in her own way with no success. However, it was Unn who came to her asking to meet up in the evening. Siss, is happy but confused. Unn invites her to her aunties house with whom she stays after moving to this town.
Siss and Unn got on so fast, taking refuge in Unns room. Two young girls soon get on to know each other. They develop a very mystical comradery in a short while, sharing intimate details about themselves. Unn wanted Siss to stay longer and wanted to talk to her about something very personal and important. But Siss is worried as it was getting late, and was slightly embarrassed with the sudden development. The words are unspoken and Siss is intrigued by the unsaid secret.
Unn on part was equally embarrassed and could not muster enough courage to face her new friend. She decides to skip the school, but typical to students, she leve home but does not go to school. She decides to wander about near the Ice palace ( the formation of frozen ice during winter) formed at the water fall. Mesmerized by the visual, she set about exploring the wonder, but get trapped inside unable to come out and die due to Hypothermia,
The news of Unn disappearance spread and the town is in pursuit of search. Siss, is the last person in contact with her and the only clue to the disappearance has to be from her.
"What did Unn tell you ?" they ask her."It was only something I said !""I don't think so. I can see you know something. What did Unn say ?""I can't tell you.""Why not ?""Because it wasn't like that, she didn't say it ! And she didn't say a word about hiding."
The search party slowly disintegrate after a couple of days and the town is resigned to the fact of her disappearance and things started to get back to normal. However, for Siss this has been a great shock. She is not able to comes to term with her closest friend ( despite being with her only for a couple of hours) and the indifference she find in others towards this. She make a promise to her missing friend not to forget her. Siss, now takes the place of Unn in the classroom, exactly trying to imbibe her lost friends behavior. She does not allow anyone come near her, and makes sure that the seat occupied by her friend is left open for her return. She stands in the same place and posture as her friend. All the efforts by her classmates , teachers and parents to get her back to the normal ways fails to yield any results. Even the plea of Unn's Aunt as she was preparing to leave the town haunted by Unn's memories, was not enough for Siss to change her resolve.
Siss, has build an Ice Palace of resistance with the image of Unn inside and refusing to come out. The time moved on and the winter paved way to spring and summer and the Ice Palace of the waterfall started breaking and cracking. The symbolic dissolve of Ice Palace has to happen in Siss mind as well.
Tarjei Vesaas build the palace of metaphor with some brilliantly constructed words. The entire book is written in simple language and easy. He cleverly uses the metaphoric symbolism to the tale with ease and naturality. Short and an easy read, but leave you with some everlasting memories. of the book. I find it difficult to writer from a child's view point and see the thinking of the elders appearing in most of the writings.
The book is about what is left unsaid, than what is said. Siss herself is tormented by the secret not spoken to her y her friend. Even in is writing, Vesaas is not verbose, he rely on the implied messages and understanding and gets his characters around that. Its about Siss, but the others tries to work around her in unison to bring her back to the normal life again. This is a tale of pre-adolescent friendship. There are others who see the subtle erotic, sensual connection of adolescence in it. Immediately after entering the room Unn and Siis decides to undress with the childish curiosity and giggle. They also share secrets and Siss is careful not to talk anything about it to the others.
An haunting story told beautifully, in a poetic language by Tarjei Vesaas. Truly brilliant.-----------------------------------------------
The Ice Palace ( 1963 )
Tarjei Vesaas ( translated from Norwegian by Elizabeth Rokkan 1966)
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