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Hex: Darkland Tales

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When she is tortured in her own home, before being thrown into her dingy prison cell, Geillis describes the following: ‘They turned me over, Iris… everything inside my body felt like it was burning, like I was on fire, like I was already in hell and they were the demons surrounding me, and it is for their crimes I will die! And will those of us who live comfortably come to the support of those being thrown deeper and deeper into poverty? Lo malo es que no conocemos sus circunstancias ni cómo es exactamente su situación personal, por lo que es complicado comprender el hartazgo y desilusión que transmite.

The idea of retrospective exculpation is one which I feel a certain ambivalence towards: if those women, then why not Margaret Maclauchlan and Margaret Wilson, the Wigtown Martyrs, who were killed under law for their beliefs and without any supernatural suppositions? There seems so much crammed into the hundred pages, even some welcome black humour, which is in sharp contrast to Luckenbooth, where relatively little took place in a bloated excess of pages. Iris essentially takes on the role of Geillis’ familiar, and directs much of her narrative is toward Geillis.

And that darkness is not simply down to toxic masculinity, it is also down to a toxic economic and political system that wants more and more from women as mothers, wives, lovers, workers, sex objects and figures to venerate. Me hubiera gustado saber mejor el trasfondo de lo que sucedió y cómo esos malnacidos consiguieron que nadie condenara sus actos. The blazingly original author of Luckenbooth delivers another ferociously intelligent and mesmerising tour de force featuring a condemned sixteenth-century witch and a mysterious visitor from the future who dangles the tantalising prospect of escape. Hay datos que se repiten, desapego emocional en la narración y falta de profundidad en los personajes. Geillis also had the misfortune to be able to assist women in child-birth and she was ‘ cursed with the ability to cure the ill’ by knowing which herbs and plants could be used to alleviate certain ailments.

The contrast between the past and present is so clear in this book; the parallels were simply incredible to read and had such an impact.

Intelligent women threaten men, powerful women threaten them even more and the female ‘ body has been for women in capitalist society what the factory has been for male waged labour… the primary ground of their exploitation and resistance. Though the weather worsens, his presence brings a new light to daily life, and when the ultimate disaster finally strikes, they'll all be ready. With a poetic style influenced by Gertrude Stein and William Burroughs, this collection is woven with surrealistic imagery that is both unflinching and dislocating.

Nevertheless, the reality of what happened the night that Janet Cornfoot was lynched at Pittenweem is hard to grasp as one. Brecht would certainly agree with her but so too would Edmund Burke (1729-1797) when he said, ‘ The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. If only those smart, brilliant sisters had realised police officers would later take selfies by their dead bodies. As the time approaches dawn, Geillis tells Iris about how she came to be imprisoned, and offers a ‘visceral description of what happens when a society is consumed by fear and superstition.During the 2016 Presidential election Hilary Clinton was demonised, particularly on social media, with images of her in a black hat riding a broom. There is, however, a thread of magical realism that runs throughout, which sees Iris, a woman from the present day, seemingly travelling through time and space to comfort Geillis in her prison cell on her final night, before transforming into a crow so she can watch over her. One might look at Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wicked, or even (my favourite) Frau Totenkinder in Bill Willingham’s Fables for iterations of how the witch can be rehabilitated. Inspired by the North Berwick witch trials, the author masterfully demonstrates how the injustices women faced at the hands of men are still occurring today but in a different form, by telling us Geillis’ story. Hex is a visceral depiction of what happens when a society is consumed by fear and superstition, exploring how the terrible force of a king's violent crusade against ordinary women can still be felt, right up to the present day.

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