MUST READ: Beside the Ocean of Time | india | Hindustan Times
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MUST READ: Beside the Ocean of Time

Beside the Ocean of Time is a story of little boy lost in his dreams that echo the history of the Orkney Islands which he calls home.

india Updated: Mar 04, 2006 12:37 IST

Beside the Ocean of Time
George Mackay Brown
Price — £ 5.99
Publication Flamingo

I am thinking of fairy tales. Of lands far away. Of dominions still ruled by elegant princes, of beautiful princesses, of pastoral landscapes. I was once told that not all fairy tales were so innocent. That they were devious means to communicate the hard facts of life.

But I chose to take these mystical stories as they were the epitome of surreal dimensions. A space between time where I could get lost. Beside the Ocean of Time is something on these lines. The story of Thorfinn Ragnarson, the little boy lost in his dreams that echo the history of the Orkney Islands which he calls home.

As a quick reference, these islands are the northernmost territory of Britain and mostly uninhabited. They were originally with the Norwegians but then the mighty British Empire decided to play the thief and snatched Orkney from them. The grand thing about the boy’s dreams is that while it might be called a fairy tale it is very much the history of the islands.

Which would lead one to examine if a fairytale can actually take the shape of history, and if so then to what extent. It is hard to confirm history without dates and yet this unit of measurement is so inadequate to record events. History lies in the life of people, their daily life.

George Mackay Brown writes as if recording the minor characters of some legendary battle. Interestingly they all have a story to tell. But the book is not all about daydreams. It also tells the story of a community coming to terms with changing conditions.

There is a point where dreams take the shape of reality. An appalling picture of decay pervades the scenario. And one feels compelled to flip back to the first page, if only to relive the times that are lost forever.