About 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, our bodies are roughly 60% water; yet due to my economic state, I only ever really thought about water when I had no access to it (which happens very rarely). So far this module has made me consciously think about water and the way I affect it, rather than how it affects me. Ecocriticm and blue texts are purposely written to draw attention to the impact that humans have on bodies of water, as well as exploring ‘the economic and symbolic logic that pushed us into this tragedy.’ (Yaegar, 2010:53)
Whilst we are linked to water in terms of its increasing pollution, there is also a deep interconnection between water and life. Chen, Mcleond and Neimanis state that ‘Water is a matter of relation and connection’, suggesting that there is a significance between the links that water creates with us and the environment. Emmi Itäranta’s Memory of Water looks closely to the relationship that water has with life and death. Chapter Seventeen opens with the philosophical voice of an unnamed narrator, as opposed to Noria, looking at the interconnection and circularity of life and water.
‘Death is water’s close companion, and neither of them can be separated from us, for we are made of the versatility of water and the closeness of death. Water doesn’t belong to us, but we belong to water: when it has passed through our fingers and pores and bodies, nothing separates us from earth .’(Itäranta, 2014:221)
Itäranta looks at the duality of our bodily relationship to water, in the way that water giving us life, yet and an absence would mean death. This applies to us as readers, as well as the narrative within the text, emphasised by the change in narrators.
Within literature, the act of writing can be become water-like. Various metaphors describing writing with links to water, for example, ‘well of knowledge’, a ‘stream of consciousness’ and ‘fluid’ sentences. Within Memory of Water, Itäranta looks at the relationship of water, writing and culture. In one of the last scenes of the book, Noria writes down her past experiences in one of her father’s tea master books that have been passed down through her family. This passing of knowledge is both cultural and water-like in the way that it is circular and never ending. When her words ‘finally burst to the surface, bright and bold, I caught what I could and let them pour out of me.’ (Itäranta, 2014:254) Even here, Noria describes the way she writes with connotations to water, suggesting that the acts are interlinked through a deep connection of knowledge, culture and water.
Itäranta’s novel as an ecocritical text looks at the politics of water, bringing to light how both in the novel and present day, water is politicised, controlled and commoditised. The use of the Twilight Century highlights the anthropocentric thinking that our society has, bringing awareness to the long term effects of our doings. What isn’t addressed in the text to a great extent, is how we can shift this way of thinking and create communities through water, rather than boundaries.
This section of the module has dramatically changed my way of thinking about water, exposing me to the larger scale aspects of water politics and pollution. Water is so much more than just a source of life; it holds culture, tradition, knowledge and relationships.
Pollution Solution: your toilet is not a bin, do not put anything else down it except from toilet paper.
Cecilia Chen, Janine McLeod, and Astrida Neimanis eds. Thinking With Water (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2013) p. 12
Itäranta, Emmi, Memory of Water, (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2015)
Yaegar, Patricia, ‘Sea Trash, Dark Pools, and the Tragedy of the Commons’ PMLA, 125.3 (2010) p. 53