Jocasta: Wife and Mother
Brian W. Aldiss
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A Theban adventure from the master of Science-Fiction, here proving himself adept at imagining historical worlds. Part of the Brian Aldiss Collection.
In Jocasta, Aldiss brings vividly to life the ancient world of dreaming Thebes: a world of sun-drenched landscapes, golden dust, sphynxes, Furies, hermaphroditic philosophers, ghostly apparitions and ambivalent gods. Jocasta is also a strikingly effective contemplation of an older world order where the human mind is still struggling to understand itself and the nature of the world around it.
learnt much about men.’ ‘What did you chiefly learn as a woman?’ Jocasta asked, interested despite herself. ‘That men are always ruled by the images of their mothers … Whether for good or ill, a desire for the mother remains. The mother, after all, is the source of all life. Could a man but gain possession of his mother …’ ‘Yes, yes, what then? What if he does possess his mother?’ ‘It is fatal. He must possess the mother only symbolically, through marriage to a woman who then becomes a mother
developing. Our whole humankind was emerging from Dreamtime, where instinct alone guided them through their brief lives; their essences were not yet sufficiently developed to take on the burdens of decision. Their failings and hardships were ascribed to external factors, chiefly to gods of various sorts and conditions. Now they are gaining the power of choice, of discrimination. I’m not sure how much good this mental development does them. I’ve known peons working out their lives in the fields
‘There’s a girl who was badly brought up, if ever I saw one.’ Jocasta had an idea. ‘Grandmother, why not summon up Sophocles again? Sophocles would know what should be done. He could advise Oedipus. He wrote a play about Oedipus.’ Semele pulled a face. ‘You can’t keep calling these people back from limbo. This Sophocles is probably sprawling on beds of amaranth and moly. Why should he want to reappear in Thebes, of all places?’ A gloomy silence fell. Oedipus continued to pace the floor. ‘You
with!’ the king advised, not unkindly. Chrysippus had turned to look upwards into Jocasta’s face. ‘I saw it all, my queen. I saw the blood. I watched the guards die in agony. I saw the king’s body fall, the horse gallop off, dragging the overturned chariot. The royal body in the dust, writhing, then still. The flies. The vultures …’ ‘How could you witness such things if you were hiding behind a bush, tell me?’ ‘Oh, if only I had witnessed nothing! I suffered it all. In that fateful hour, the
but rather, masters of our own fates. Were I king here, I would ban the gods from our gates.’ The same old man protested, ‘Did not Oedipus try to swim against this tide of prophecy? Apollo saw to it that the ghastly drama was nevertheless enacted. As far as I can see, we’re pretty helpless.’ Creon replied, ‘If Oedipus had scorned Apollo’s prediction, he would now be King of Corinth.’ His manner suggested that he thought this statement would end the discussion. A youth remarked, ‘I don’t know