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!)
No I didn’t. Food literature is plentiful, but this is not that.
Read Johanna Sinisalo’s novel The Core of the Sun.
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.