Friday, May 2, 2008

* Lisa Mantchev's "Threads of Red and White" (short story, fantasy): An immigrant's confusion

This sequel to her "A Dance Across Embers" is set 20 years later. My interpretation of Ventsei's escape in original story turns out to be wrong; he escaped not to be a hero, but to find safe life elsewhere. I wonder if original story's ghosts were Nazis or some kind of communist police; I am not familiar with European history.

We now meet Ventsei well settled in life as a doctor in a foreign land. Family includes his mother (Tereza), wife (Kimberly), & baby daughter (Damascena). That is when he is confronted with visitors from his now long forgotten past - his childhood friend Milena, her godmother, etc.

Some remembrances, & a bit of tension. But all ends well. Not completely satisfactory for everyone, but well enough.

What struck me about the story were two things. First, the immigrant in me could identify with some of emotions of Ventsei - yeah, there are happy memories of childhood but leaving current life doesn't seem to make sense.

Second is the apparently Bulgarian practice called "martenitza" that the title is named for - a ritual of tying red & white colored threads to your wrist or some inanimate object nearby. This is supposed to bring luck. This is almost identical to the practice, called "mollie", rather common in many parts of north India - only the thread is just red colored, no white.

I recall a very similar situation in Jostein Gaarder's novel "Sophie's World". Somewhere it tells a Norwegian folk tale that is identical to an Indian one! And I'm not aware of much historical contact between India & Bulgaria or Scandinavia. How far back in time the roots of these practices & folktales go?

Fact sheet.

First published: Clarkesworld, December 2007.
Rating: A
Download full text.

Note: This is a repost. Reason.