My rating: 4 stars
Weight by Jeanette Winterson is a slim book. Nevertheless, it encapsulates various narrators, tones and reflections. The Ancient Greek myth of Atlas is used to explore the concept of burden and how it affects various people, including the author herself.
Atlas is the son of Poseidon and Mother Earth. After the war between the gods and the Titans, he was punished to shoulder the Cosmos for eternity. He once received a visit from Heracles, who had a favour to ask. He wanted him to pick some of Hera’s golden apples. During that time, Heracles would take his place as bearer of the universe.
The two men, despite both being descendants of gods, are starkly different. Atlas is most of the times serene, trying to accept his fate without much fuss but not without questions. Heracles, on the other hand, is arrogant. His “bad lad” attitude is hilarious at first, but the more we learn about his behaviour, the more loathsome he becomes.
The book features various forms of narration. Some chapters are narrated in the first person by Atlas, while others have a third-person narrator, as it’s the case of those that feature Heracles. Interestingly, other chapters are narrated by the author, mixing fiction with non-fiction. Winterson establishes a connection between her life and the burden experienced by Atlas. Those chapters could just be musings by a fictional authorial persona, but readers who are aware of some occurrences in her life can conclude that they have auto-biographical elements to them.
There are also a variety of writing tones throughout the book. It can be meditative, funny, dreamy, bawdy. While at times we are given the ingredients to have a laugh, at other occasions we are made to ponder on life.
“No man believes what he does not feel to be true. I should like to unbelieve myself. I sleep at night and wake in the morning hoping to be gone. It never happens. One knee forward, one knee bent, I bear the world.”
Despite being an enjoyable read, Weight won’t be vivid in my mind for very long. Even while reading I kept forgetting some elements, maybe because the story of the characters is not always detailed and is often interspersed with other musings. It was gratifying at the time, though.