The Stone Woman

Read this beautiful tale on my way back from New York.
The Stone Woman – by A. S. BYATT, from 2003-10-13 issue of The New Yorker.

It is about how a young woman pierced by grief caused by her mom’s death and slowly morphed into a stone woman. The language starts firmly in reality. I followed its even paced reasoning and unknowingly being led into a world of mythical power and invisible forces of nature.

It filled me with immense longing and curiosity of Iceland.

Like poetry, you have to read these aloud to appreciate its lyrical quality. In Chinese we would say: in speaking these words, you place a delicate fragrance on the tip of your tongue; with each syllable, it is spreading deeper in your mouth.

About plants and flowers:

Winter became spring. The dead leaves turned dark with rain, grass pushed through them, then crocuses and snowdrops, followed by self-spread bluebells and an uncontrollable carpet of celandines¡ªpale-gold flowers with flat green leaves, which ran over everything, headstones and gravel, bottle-green marble chips on recently dug graves, Thorsteinn¡¯s heap of rubble. They lasted a brief time, and then the gold faded to silver, and the silver became white, transparent, a brief ghostly lace of fine veins, and then a fallen mulch of mold, inhabited by pushy tendrils and the creamy nodes of rhizomes.

About Iceland:

“… In Iceland, we are matter-of-fact about the world of invisible beings. We make gates in the rocks for elves to come and go. We know that stones have their own energies. Iceland is a young country, a restless country¡ªin our land the earth¡¯s mantle is still being changed at great speed. We live like lichens, clinging to standing stones and rolling stones and heaving stones and rattling stones and flying stones. Our tales are full of striding stone women. …”

About stone woman:

he thought human thoughts and stone thoughts. The latter were slow, patchily colored, textured and extreme, both hot and cold.

About stone works:

Ines came to see that all the stones, from the vast and cow-size to clusters of pebbles and polished singletons, were works in progress, or potential works, or works completed. They were both carved and decorated. A face peered from under a crusty overhang, one-eyed, fanged, leering. A boulder displayed a perfectly polished pair of youthful breasts, glistening in circles of golden lichen. A hunched stone woman had a fantastic garden of brilliant moss spilling from her lap and over her thighs. On closer inspection, Ines saw that jewels had been placed in crevices, and sharpened pins like medieval cloak brooches had been inserted in holes threaded in the stone surface. A dwarfish stone had tiny, carved gold hands where its ears should have been.

3 thoughts on “The Stone Woman

  1. Very very wonderful!
    Like the words very much!
    Is there any explanation on the relation between stone and ice? Because I think Iceland is cold and isolate from the continents. So the native lives there should have some myth and legend about this land. And why they choose stone? Not the ice or other things like snow, wind?
    I like stone too. Trees and stone.

  2. Me too! 🙂 Trees and Stones.
    I don’t know why the author picked stone over ice. Maybe she is just like us, likes stone. 🙂

Comments are closed.