The presence of gluttony, the burden of secrecy, and the necessity of sacrifice; as well as, their effects, are thematic throughout the novel, Memory of Water, by Emmi Itäranta.
Here’s the story…
Resulting from an underappreciation of a valuable and necessary resource, water, humans become wasteful and gluttonous. Mother Earth cannot sustain its production to meet humans’, over-indulgent needs; so, in effect, water becomes invaluable. That ensues war. Justifiable war. Water wars. Which results in devastation and destruction. Increased and intensified pollution, air contamination, excessive ash, and debris. Not to mention, of the already limited clean water supply, a good percentage (of clean water) acquires new contamination reaching hazardous levels. That beckons a forced restart, and calls for order under new rules. This chain of events is a conceptually macro pretext that is alluded to through script, imaginative thought, and conversation, continually throughout the novel. As a practice in introspective thinking and outward awareness, we can look at our own daily lives, in real time, and see where the gluttony has already taken root. I personally believe that our unwillingness to accept the idea that maybe we need to make a few changes, to prolong our comfortable way of life; largely stems from both ignorance and short-sightedness.
Now, in the novels current state, military forces have taken control of remaining water supplies; and civilians are rationed their “worth” of water, in intervals. Noria, the main protagonist, a Tea Master from a lineage that stretches back to a time that people can only hypothesize on; is dealt a hand of secrecy, by birth. A hidden spring belonging only to her family, non-existent to outside peoples, with no documentation to speak of. A blessing in some regards, though, a burden in others. For, in secrecy, little good can come. This idea becomes pertinent and resounding, almost binding, as the story progresses. Itäranta writes, “Secrets carve us like water carves stone. On the surface, nothing will shift, but things we cannot tell anyone chafe and consume us, and slowly our life settles around them, moulds itself into their shape.” In context of the story, Noria assimilates her way of life to the knowledge of the secret spring; and the action that being the bearer of such a burden, requires. Although the circumstances shift throughout the story, this premise, conceptually remains.
Forward, imagine sustaining a memory of such measure; the weight of its implications crippling. For Noria, it’s an implication of almost certain death; while lack of water around her, is creating entirely certain despair, followed by death. What decision would be made by you? Is your single life and a legacy that is no longer relevant, more valuable, than the countless lives surrounding? Noria did not think so. She chose sacrifice over selfishness, sacrifice over blind loyalty to a code; she chose friends, strangers, and arguably enemies, out of morality. I believe there is a message here regarding a centralized theme of good versus evil, morality versus immorality. To hold onto the secret, to hold onto any secret of such volume, would be letting evil win and immorality thrive. I believe no one life, even my own, is worth more than another’s; especially not an entire community worth of lives, young and old. So, I’ll leave you with this, a quote from Noria, and Finnish writer, Emmi Itäranta…
“I believe that we must make hard choices every day despite knowing that there is no reward.”
For anyone interested in quality, thought-provoking, seamless writing, I’d highly recommend this novel. Even if you do not take from it as I did, I do believe you will garner something valuable.
Thank you for taking time to read this.