Monday, April 20, 2015

Interesting Tesseract . . .

So what’s the lesson here – aside from the obvious: Author Madeline L’Engle and her granddaughter’s preservations of previous drafts providing us a time tesseract into the revisions of “A Wrinkle in Time?”

The Wall Street Journal offers us a peek (a rather limited peek, assuredly, as there are likely more revisions and more drafts floating around out there) into L’Engle’s revision of the Newberry Award-winning book.

Jennifer Maloney writes:

Many readers, then and now, have understood the book’s dark planet Camazotz—a regimented place in which mothers in unison call their children in for dinner—to represent the Soviet Union. But the passage discovered by L’Engle’s granddaughter presents a more nuanced worldview.

In it, Meg has just made a narrow escape from Camazotz. As Meg’s father massages her limbs, which are frozen from a jarring trip through space and time, she asks: “But Father, how did the Black Thing—how did it capture Camazotz?” Her father proceeds to lay out the political philosophy behind the book in much starker terms than are apparent in the final version.

He says that yes, totalitarianism can lead to this kind of evil. (The author calls out examples by name, including Hitler, Mussolini and Khrushchev.) But it can also happen in a democracy that places too much value on security, Mr. Murry says. “Security is a most seductive thing,” he tells his daughter. “I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the greatest evil there is.”

Coming from a Mormon standpoint, I can say L’Engle’s thoughts in the cut passage mirror very closely the concepts on security and the evils thereof in Satan’s “plan,” offered as a counter to the one proposed by Jesus Christ in the Council of Heaven, in which we exchanged the security of returning to God’s presence for the moral agency of making the choice ourselves.

Maloney continues:

Ms. Voiklis said she wanted readers to know the book wasn’t a simple allegory of communism. Instead, it’s about the risk of any country—including a democracy—placing too much value on security. The tension between safety and personal freedom is an idea that resonates in today’s politics.
“It’s normal to be afraid,” said Ms. Voiklis, who manages her late grandmother’s estate full-time in New York. “But you can’t let the fear control your decisions. Otherwise, you risk becoming like Camazotz.”

Ars Technical says scholars who looked at the passage agreed that the book was strengthened by leaving the passages out. I’m not so sure. Perhaps it is a bit too preachy – the preachiness might be safer left in the mind of the reader than in the words of the author. But I’m convinced the passages on wanting to exchange security for anything else are still powerful.

The WSJ notes there is no hint as to why the passages were cut – whether they were curt by L’Engle or by her publisher. So the tesseract only takes us so far. . .

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