To say about Daria Galant that she is a writer is too little. It is just not enough. Analyzing her writing achievements, you cannot skip the fact that she is also a well-known horse whisperer, a creator of her own educational methods, a poet, a playwright, a teacher, and a journalist … Why is this so important? Daria Galant is an experienced writer who does not abandon her non-literary experience while sitting down in front of a blank piece of paper. She proved this many times by hiding part of her own soul and charm in subsequent novels. One cannot, therefore, separate own life from what is enclosed in the pages of the book. And because there are many things going on both in author’s life and in the book, you can gain a lot by reading Daria’s next novel – the House of Winds.
On the front page, there is this information: „it is a multifaceted novel about tangled fates and psychological dilemmas of strangers who unexpectedly start sharing life together by moving to one house”. It sounds banal, too banal for a book so deeply rooted in psychological knowledge. After reading the novel, you can also come to the conclusion that this introduction is „false”, or at least confusing because the book’s main plot is actually one: seeking yourself. Because the house, the narrative and everything else are subordinated to the thought that comes to all people’s minds: how to find your own identity? How to be happy without hurting others? How to live a life when circumstances are against us? Seemingly ordinary questions, however, become not so obvious while reading this book. In a modern, busy world we are afraid to ask such questions, and we are even more afraid of the answers. Therefore, hiding them in the book and wisely carrying the reader through the subsequent stages of reading and initiation is truly valuable.
The is divided into twenty-four chapters. But only four of them have their own titles. At the first reading, it gives the impression of a little chaos: we do not know why some chapters have been titled while others have not, and what exactly does it mean. The first chapter is titled -„Ireland. Leinster Province. Modern times „, another (third)” A year later. December”. You have to wait a bit longer for the next title because it is the eighth chapter that we recognize as „Arrival of Chiara”. The title of the closing chapter is: „Ireland. County Leinster „. It is difficult to find a key in these, except one – the first and last titles form a kind of buckle – but let’s talk about it in a moment. The next time you read the book, you get the impression that these headers have been mistakenly placed next to the chapter numbers. They constitute an excellent ordering pointer, they show in which places the action is happening, what is very important, because those two separate places are so similar to each other that one could overlook, in where the action is taking place. And this, in turn, would build a sense of chaos. Speaking of the unfortunate choices, it is worth mentioning that The House of Winds deserves a slightly better editing and more careful typographer’s work. This magical book would have been read even better if it was edited in a better way.
While reading Daria Galant’s novel, you cannot forget about what the author said about her work with people and horses: „If a man allows to put himself aside in life, the horse will also move him aside. And there is nothing you can do about it because we work on the principle of a mirror. The animal reflects all our emotions in a distorting mirror. It allows us to realize their possession.” The mirror seems to be an important symbol in both the book and the entire work of the novelist. Mirror and horses. If we have a problem with our own identity, horses do not accept us. We have a problem that needs to be solved. And the mirror …
„She loved the mirror. It became her ally. But it didn’t speak (…) she felt a bond with it. Ghosts from the mirror were not threatening her at all.”,”The mirror seemed to breathe, to take life from the air that got into the structure of the crystal after removing the dust. It glowed splendidly”, „In the evening, Amelia felt an irresistible urge to be near the mirror. She has not visited it for a long time (…) Knowing that access to the mirror is difficult, she has not visited it lately.
Now, however, she decided to do it.
She stood opposite the mirror, pushing aside the dams, the satin and the sheaves of hay. A calm sheet of crystal appeared to her eyes. She looked at it with pleasure.
„I am here”, she said to the mirror.”
These are just a few fragments from the book where the mirror appears. Even the reader who is less-familiar with literature, will recognize this motif as grounded in the fairy tale of Snow White, repeatedly processed, but always in certain frames close to the original. Daria Galant „reworks” the motif of the mirror – certainly using own therapist’s experience – therefore, the seemingly banal and obviously recognizable motive begins to play its own role in the novel. It is no longer an enemy or ally but a wise and sometimes cruel exposer of the human nature. The human past. Because this is what this novel is really about. We need books about pursuing a dream goal, overcoming difficulties and finally reaching a happy end in today’s busy and chaotic world, and certainly we have a lot of these to choose from. The idea, however, to concentrate on extracting what is behind our current life, choices and their consequences is much less common on the market. In the The House of Winds, the motif of searching for the true self is the most captivating. The reader has the ability to gradually and slowly (which is an asset not to be underestimated) move around the next parts of the novel, the author gives him time to think and discover, and the mirror in an empty stable becomes an eloquent sign, a warning sign (though another reading, and finding other accents can bring quite different conclusions). With the help of a mirror, but not only with that, the motif of destination was introduced. It always – whether we like it or not – depends on what’s behind us. The almost psychotherapeutic arguments which are so strongly present in the book are an irresistible proof for it.
What methods does the author use to achieve an atmosphere of calm in anxiety, the order in chaos, clear conclusions in seemingly detached human stories? The key here is the mindfulness emphasized earlier, in which narrative structures become the most important, while the action is postponed. This is not Joyce’s stream of self-awareness, but the writer certainly escapes from the schemas used in many novels: sudden changes of actions, suspensions diametrically reversing the fate of heroes. Daria Galant focuses rather on the conscious use of names, the creation of types and characters, and also on an original story, not created under a pre-determined thesis. And so she is rather the heiress of the classic form of writing, rather than popular books. Without revealing the content of the book, it is worth paying attention to one – quite significant, as it seems – nuance: the buckle that was mentioned earlier. The first and last parts seem to be almost the same. However, changing the noun at the name of the action site, seemingly irrelevant, shows how much the author cares about the details, they are important to her, because it is through them that the most important layer of the work was built.
Moving away from simple schemes, creating own, subordinated author’s vision of the novel, avoiding the pressure to surprise the reader does not mean that you will be deprived of astonishing moments and finals. It will be especially surprising for those who know Daria Galant’s books well. The author has once again written a novel that does not fit clearly into any schemes, which is also a continuation of previous achievements, as well as introducing a new quality to the novel of the twenty-first century. Is this possible? Readers must find it out on their own.
Dr hab. Agnieszka Kuniczuk-Trzcinowicz
Faculty of „Artes Liberales” University of Warsaw