Thursday 19 June 2014

8 Facts about Furies

Erinys versus Perp

1. I gave a paper by Skype this week to a conference in Israel about modern fiction and Furies, or Erinyes in Greek (singular is Erinys). On the very same day a modern Erinys was behind the headlines in Iraq.

Erinyes v. Orestes
  2.  Erinyes were fathered by the bloody drops which fell from Ouranos’ groin. His son Kronos hated him arbitrarily from birth and, given the excuse that his father was abusing not him but his mother Earth, castrated him. The drops fertilized  Earth. The Erinyes are Kronos' sisters and born of a toxic combination of arbitrary hatred, justifiable revenge and inter-generational strife.

3. Western oil companies in Iraq use a controversial corporation called Erinys Iraq. Its website says it isrisk management and security services company specialising in complex and high-threat risk mitigation services’. In the pre-Spin era  it would have been called a mercenary army. 

4. An Erinys spends most of her time asleep. She wakes up when someone with a grudge invites her to avenge them on the person(s) s/he believes have caused them grief. Erinyes torture the alleged felon by chasing her/him with whips and snakes until blood is drawn. Their arrival in your life means that it is PAYBACK TIME.

Erinyes asleep (bottom)
5.  According to Aeschylus’ Oresteia, in advanced civilisations Athena takes away the Erinyes’ power. She gets people to sort out their conflicts without bloodshed, confines the Erinyes in caves and renames them Kindly Ones (Eumenides).
6. The best new novel I have read this decade is Natalie Haynes’ The Amber Fury (2014). It contains a moving portrait of a teenage girl with behavioural problems and MISDIRECTED (although not arbitrary) feelings of vengefulness. She finally gets to a place where she may be able to become more like a Eumenis and less like an Erinys. If you don’t know anything about teenagers or about Greek tragedy, or why teenagers and Greek tragedy are a perfect fit, then read this book immediately.

 Eastern Front
7. The best new novel I read in the previous decade was Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones (originally in French as Les Bienveillantes, 2006) in which it is never clear whether the mad and murderous narrator thinks he is an Erinys or a human in the Oresteia. He hates many people arbitrarily. If you don’t know what happened in Ukraine and Russia during World War II then read this book immediately.

8. In Iraq, the largest oil refinery (in Baiji) fell this week to Islamist extremists whose acronym ISIS coincidentally sounds like another ancient supernatural female associated with death. There were many casualties amongst some ‘security force personnel.’ This is likely to include operatives from Erinys Iraq. 

Baiji Refinery: Erinys v. Isis
Not a fact but an opinion: Do mercenaries fighting for Erinys know what an Erinys actually is, and have they persuaded themselves that what they are doing in Iraq has anything to do with legitimate vengeance? The whole situation is a ghastly mess created long-term by European imperialism and economic exploitation, and short-term by Bush, Blair and corporations who hire outfits like Erinys Iraq. The violence of the hate-filled people in ISIS may often be misdirected but it is not arbitrary. It really is Payback Time.

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