R. B. Lemberg, The Four Profound Weaves, Tachyon Publications, 2020.
Audio version available.
With incredible delicacy, Lemberg tells a story of change, hope and resistance in a wonderfully detailed secondary world.
A nameless man has fled the tyrannical city of Iyar with his grand-children. Now among the Surun people, he finds an old friend, a weaver named Uiziya. She has been waiting for decades for her aunt to come back from exile and to teach her the Four Profound Weaves. Both Uiziya and the nameless man feel dejected, out of place and they leave to find Uiziya's aunt.
The prose in The Four Profound Weaves was the first thing that drew me in. You instantly recognise the level of detail and attention that an accomplished short story writer gives to their prose. Even in this novella, it is deep and resonant, it carries the depths of emotion the characters feel, and it paints cities with barely a few brush strokes.
I also loved Lemberg's description of places, and in particular of Iyar, which felt like a fantasy Eastern European city from the early twentieth century with its ghettos and golems.
The characters touched me to the core. The nameless man has transitioned and he looks not only for his own name, but also for the acceptance of his gender among his own people. Uiziya is a woman who transitioned as a child and more certain of her own place. Yet she yearns for her lost aunt, she yearns for love and knowledge. Both are old, but they both feel that their life has left them unsatisfied. Missed occasions, time lost, dead lovers. Their quest arise naturally from that dissatisfaction.
I wouldn't be able to pick a favourite among them. I enjoyed Uiziya's perseverance and ability to listen. The nameless man moved me deeply with his anguish because he's finally himself and yet cannot find his own place.
The story itself is incredibly moving. Because as both those characters try to find a finished version of themselves, they also face prejudices and violence based on gender, transphobia and ethnicity. Yet, if one of the Profound Weaves is death, another is hope. But it comes at a price.
I also tremendously enjoyed the simple yet strong friendship between the nameless man and Uiziya, a friendhsip that promised nothing else than that and made it thus very precious.
The Four Profound Weaves is a beautiful novella. Lemberg has told with subtlety a delicate tale of hope, change and resistance. It is, without a doubt, one of the finest stories published in 2020.
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All reviews are spoiler free unless explicitly stated otherwise.
I only review stories I have liked even if my opinion may be nuanced. It doesn't apply for the "Novels published before 1978" series of blog posts.
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