The Coal Black Pool at the End of All Things: “Ragnarok”


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AS Byatt’s retelling of the Norse myths could have been a capitalistic send-up, designed only to make money. Instead, Byatt wrote about the myths that touched her the most as a child, about the end of the world in Norse myth.

Byatt mulls over the meaning of myths, and the purpose of myths. How can something so far from “true” matter so much? How do we come to terms with the inevitability of death? How do stories help us live?

Finally, Byatt’s setting, a child in WWII era Britain, is a stroke of genius. The world was such a mad place that the “truth” seemed more abstract to this child than myths.


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