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  • kjoannerixon

The Siege of Burning Grass


I'm continuing my reads of fictional revolutions with Premee Mohamed's THE SIEGE OF BURNING GRASS, which is actually in some ways the most realistic depiction of resistance movements I've encountered so far on this journey.


It's realistic in that the resistance movement is a widespread, grassroots movement of desperate people, who are all in prison, tortured, or fragmented and lost. Our protagonist loses contact with his associates and doesn't find them again, and then there are new revolutionaries who aren't brought up in the same philosophical system and who have varied levels of commitment to their ideals. Communication between various groups and within different segments or levels of a group is, literally, killer.


Another realism: the uncertainty of the philosophy of nonviolent pacifism. Our protagonist has many opportunities to remain committed to his refusal to fight. The Pact itself is 'the pact of those who refused to fight'--but in the end he does struggle and, in ways essential to the plot, allows violence to be done and takes advantage of the pressure that violence puts on people to act in the ways he wants them to act. What victory there is could not have been achieved without violence, violence that he assists and directs, and our protagonist accepts this and is happy in. How could he not be? It means that he gets to live.


Stylistically, this book is an uncanny fever dream of wandering in unending twilight. It made me feel awful, in my guts, because it made me think about What the Point of It All Is, and if the world can ever be saved. Will humans ever get our shit together to make the world better rather than worse? Are we doomed to an eternal cycle of pointless destruction? Will the war ever end?


Even at the end of the book I wasn't really sure if the war was over or if maybe it was just morphing into another form so that it could manage to continue the dim churn of violence and repression with another face. This doesn't sound like a recommendation, really, but... this is realistic. It's very well written--I've always found Mohamed's work to be very well written. It touched the part of my soul that fears for the future of the world. I do recommend reading SIEGE as a deep meditation on whether it is possible to refuse violence, but... if you're looking for clear or hopeful answers, you won't find them here.

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