Eat Chillies, Destroy Everything

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Did I ever think a novel could be about eating chillies?

A futuristic novel?

A dystopic feminist novel? (Though at about that point the concept starts becoming more familiar, concrete: fiery, feminist foods and readings!)

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No I didn’t. Food literature is plentiful, but this is not that.

Read Johanna Sinisalo’s novel The Core of the Sun.

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In a breathtakingly paced and suspenseful narrative about sisters who love each other in a world where women are taught to commodify and despise themselves and each other and where men are either predators, oppressors or executioners, Vanna and Mina’s lives grow increasingly surreal in a Finland of the imagination where all pleasure and freedom are banned, identities are cloned, and a rebel subculture of fiery chillie-eaters is growing and spreading right under the radar of a near totally panoptical state. There is betrayal, horror, tragedy and redemption, but thisis not the real Finland, of course. In Finland, I am told, women’s rights are taken very seriously and protected fiercely.

Like the right to eat the hottest, most painful chillies as a substitute for other pleasures and flavors taken away from people in a cold, totalitarian, and feminicidal society.

How can the right to consume inordinately tissue-scarring hot chillies be tantamount to rebellion and freedom? Well, why not?

Occasionally the horticultural detail about growing things — and contraband chillies, especially — flags a bit. But Sinisalo’s achievement is in bringing back to life nature, communities, and human relationships as all intextricably interwoven in the pursuit of happiness through this unlikely and cheeky fable about a world where brain-damaging spice is the only antidote against desensitization and oblivion.

Who WINS, in the end? The state or the people? Men or women? The pursuers or the pursued? Read to find out. . . . .

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