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Ragnarok is the story of the end of the world. It is a tale of the destruction of life on this planet and the end of the gods themselves. What more relevant myth could any modern writer find?
As the bombs rain down in the Battle of Britain, one young girl is evacuated to the countryside. She is struggling to make sense of her new wartime life. Then she is given a copy of Asgard and the Gods—a book of ancient Norse myths—and her inner and outer worlds are transformed.
How could this child know that fifty years on many of the birds and flowers she took for granted on her walks to school would become extinct?
War, natural disaster, reckless gods and the destruction of life on this planet are just some of the threads that A. S. Byatt weaves into her Ragnarok. Just as Wagner borrowed from this dramatic and catastrophic Norse saga for the climax of his Ring Cycle, so A. S. Byatt reinvents it for our time it in all its intensity and glory. Linguistically stunning and imaginatively abundant, this is a landmark piece of storytelling from one of the world’s truly great writers.
‘Byatt’s retelling of Ragnarok is visionary and surreal…Her prose is lush with adjectival excess, inordinate lists of animated creatures and the poetic effects of archaisms, alliteration, rhythm and metaphor. She swerves from wild description to wilder description…Every now and then the prose settles, so that it reminds of oral story-telling, but for the most part it has a verve and density of detail that at its best is exhilarating.’
‘What she has made in this case – thanks to a rare fusion of imagination and intellect, sensual poetry and cerebral prose, youthful joy and elderly wisdom – is an entire world, compressed but energetically alive in all its details. When we have artists like this, who needs gods?’ Full review.
‘The stomp-the-sandcastle thoroughness of universal annihilation has rarely been rendered with such dark, contagious joy; I don’t believe the characters and events of the Norse myths, which I grew up on and have been reading in various versions all my life, have ever been captured so beautifully or succinctly in English.’
‘Brilliantly effective… surely among the most beautiful and incisive Byatt has ever written.’
‘Byatt’s prose is majestic, the lush descriptive passages – jewelled one minute, gory the next – a pleasure to get lost in. A powerful, urgent warning then, but also a glorious depiction of the indelible, lifelong impression this “bright black world” leaves behind.’ Full review.
‘A.S. Byatt is known for her beautiful writing style and it’s on full display in Ragnarok. The prose is lush and descriptive and makes the book a pleasure to get lost in….a satisfying and intellectually stimulating read.’
‘The writing in Ragnarok is outstanding, richly imaginative and textured, swirling with colour and movement. The ancient myth is told with relish and power. Huge shape-shifting, slavering, coiling, black, bloody and murderous, the Norse gods that grip the thin child’s imagination leap off the page…in [Ragnarok’s] brief span are revealed an unusually fine intellect and glitteringly good writing.’