Nothing like reading a book such as Deaf Sentence with it's lingusitic subtleties and clever array of puns on death and deaf to heighten your awareness of a single word and its multiple meanings.
Resistance by Owen Sheers has taxed me greatly as I have mulled and mused and held onto the title throughout my reading. So many subtle meanings for the word and the distinct possibility that I may have slowly identified most of them in the course of the book in one form or another.
The year is 1944, the D-Day landings have failed and the unthinkable has happened as far as the British public are concerned; the Germans have invaded British shores and the war is finally rearing its ugly head in a remote and isolated farming community in the Welsh border valley of Olchon.
The women wake up one morning to find all their menfolk have disappeared in the night and slowly the truth dawns; the men had long prepared for this day in a way that the women had not. Previously protected and sheltered from the grim realities, the women must now fend for themselves and cope with the arrival of a German patrol in the valley.
Thus begins the unfolding of a poignant and deeply thought-provoking novel which leaves you constantly asking yourself, well just supposing this had been true...Churchill exiled to Canada, mass death and destruction across the UK.
The landscape of the Welsh borders provides Owen Sheers with that most perfect of geographical locations and with it all that sense of Mabinogian mythology. I'm not even going to pretend to know more than the average person about Welsh history and even less about The Mabinogian, but browsing the new Oxford World's Classics edition I came across an interesting thought in relation to Resistance,
'The basic concept of medieval Welsh histriography was that the Welsh, descendants of the Britons, were the rightful heirs to the sovereignity of Britain, symbolized by the crown of London; despite invasions by the Romans and the Picts, and despite losing the crown to the Saxons,the Welsh would eventually overcome and a golden age of British rule would be restored.'
There is clearly a great deal for the Welsh to defend in that case and I was often reminded of the way Peter Ho Davies had likewise utilized the geography so effectively in The Welsh Girl. Then On the Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin comes to mind and there must be plenty more.
I wonder whether Owen Sheers' naming of his German patrol was intended to invoke the responses in me that it did?
Albrecht the German patrol leader quickly became Albrecht Durer and I fully expected him to develop artistic sensibilities which he did. Then there was Sebald and I'm thinking Max Sebald (as in W.G.) and then Steiner and I'm thinking George Steiner, the man who has landed me in deep and muddy waters here for taking his name in vain here.
Suddenly, having read Resistance, I am more grateful than ever for the rights of speech, ideas and opinions given to us all in this free country we live in and it all becomes even more precious.
That all became a distraction I quickly had to resist myself because the book is too good to allow your concentration to be diverted, apart from giving in to the suddenly irresisistible temptation one day to scribble over that embossed title as I pondered it.
Constantly thinking resistance into the reading I found shining examples of every definition of the word, here's just one as a prolonged freeze cuts the valley off and the German patrol starts integrating into the farming life.
'Albrecht had laughed with her, relieved and relaxed by her response.'Well, maybe that's just what we are Mrs Jones,' he'd said 'all of us here. Refugees.'
Her look had cut him dead. ' Oh no, Captain Wolfram,' she'd said, all humour pared from her tone. ' This is our home. This is where we live. We're not refugees from anything, an' don't you forget that.'
Add in the information revealed in the Afterword and I knew I had read a fine book that reverberated long after the final page.
There, now while I await my Welsh visitors to tell me what I don't know and should about The Mabinogion, or that is has nothing to do with any of this at all, resist Resistance if you dare on St George's Day and Shakespeare's birthday of all days.