Continuing on my plan to finally read all Bakker’s series to its very end, without anything else in between (though I’m reading a bit of Michelle West). A race between me getting to the end point, or the actual Apocalypse coming first. You can feel it’s close, that pleasant, warm breath on your neck.

Currently some 120 pages into book 3, where page 140 is the farthest point I ever reached before.

Chapter six starts in a rather meandering way, especially coming after the previous that continued in a kind of anticlimactic way. Characters feel a bit distant after lengthy sessions that read like short time-skips and fly-bys. The first book was much stronger on this aspect, since it kept a closer perspective. The distance instead maintains a strong focus on purpose and meaning, but also makes the pages denser and more fatiguing to read.

And yet all at the sudden the distance vanishes and everything comes together to a sharp apex where all levels are fused into one: Bakker gives a rational explanation why GOD CANNOT LOVE. A mathematical proof.

At the first level it’s basically the classic “theodicy”. How can god tolerate evil in the world? Why is there pain and hate if god is the master of its own world? Why is it allowed? It’s the old theme about distinctions. Bakker uses the metaphor of a candle. The candle can only have its meaning if it can shine through the darkness. Without the distinction between light from darkness, the light, the flame and the candle do not exist. And that’s fine, not especially revelatory. It’s just an abstraction.

But here Bakker is able to WEAPONIZE the rhetoric of love. He builds an equivalence between LOVE and KNOWLEDGE. I love you (said to a woman) because only I know you, deeply. I know all the good things as well as the bad about you. The virtues and the vices. I know the way you truly are, and because of that I love you, in a way no one else can. Because I alone know you that way. (and because we know each other in that unique, exceptional way)

It’s not the sudden charm of a lover, the projection of an ideal of beauty, the seduction of a surface. It’s instead the love acquired after many years spent together, the good and the bad, and that profundity of knowledge that is the result. Love past the curtains of beauty, wishes and desires.

The revelation comes unexpected to Achamian, in the exact same moment it comes to the reader. Because it is simply true. Not at a level of abstraction, but immediate. It comes close to the level of the story and characters, and is valid as a universal concept.

A god knows everything and everyone. He knows you, both the things you know about yourself, as well what you hide from yourself (the two faces of the coin, another strong point within book 2). He sees right THROUGH you. As if you were completely transparent, with no sense of shame, of things you expect to hide. That’s why men cower in front of the gods. Because the gods know, MORE. Nothing can be fashioned, nothing is hidden. And yet the god knows everything and everyone EQUALLY. He knows you the same way he knows everyone else. He knows the insides of your body the same as he knows the insides of your soul. He knows your past, what you have done, and the future, what you will do. And he knows better than you, why you have done the things you’ve done. The god knows you the same as he knows everyone else, the same as he knows a chair, a stone, the law of physics that move your body and your soul. He is the substance you swim through and that makes you. Therefore everything is simply equal, there’s no distinction. The god doesn’t love you MORE than another, because you are the same as a rock. There’s nothing more to you. There’s nothing more to anything else. Just a THING. An impersonal eye that looks at you and says nothing. A god that cannot feel. WHAT DO YOU SEE. I MUST KNOW WHAT YOU SEE. A god that cannot perceive any answer.

This is again abstract, but it is concrete within the story. A couple of pages earlier comes another revelation. Kellhus is the personification of the god, but he doesn’t have the powers of a god because he cannot HEAL. And yet it is true that he knows people, that he sees through them as if they are transparent. Esmenet says as much. She felt eager for the first time when she felt being truly known, when Kellhus understood her whole story, the deeper secrets Achamian never came close to. And at the same time she cowered in shame, even if being known by Kellhus was also to be absolved.

When Achamian says to Esmenet that Kellhus knows EVERYONE, he isn’t even telling her, but to himself. Because it comes as a revelation. Kellhus cannot know you (Esmenet) especially, because he knows everyone just the same. He sees through everyone. Validating and reinforcing by a scene back in book 2, from Kellhus point of view we know that he sees Esmenet just the same as he saw Serwe: as another tool to wield. Another piece of the world he walks through. And he sacrificed Serwe, even DESECRATED HER CORPSE, just because it could be an expedient to seize his power.

To be KNOWN by Kellhus is not to be made MORE. But LESS. To become just another thing. A carpet. A door. A knife. Knowledge DEBASES.

It’s kind of ironic that in this moment of absolute power Kellhus loses something. Achamain can indulge in a moment of nothingness he achieved: the light of a god (kellhus) creates the shadow that lets the love between Achamian and Esmenet persist. Achamian has literally created a space where the god cannot go.

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  1. […] the better of the three. Not in writing quality, but because of the ease of plot and themes. I already mentioned that this third book is more frequently than before a fly-by, taking a step away from the closed […]

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