Reliving the Past

Pauline Clarke‘s The Twelve and the Genii (Faber, London, 1962) is a story about making the domestic world storyable and the present intersecting with the past.

Max finds twelve soldiers in the loft and reanimates them through his imagination, concealing this from his family. When alive they appoint him genii to replace the original four genii’s, the Bronte children, and tell him of their adventures to the Ashanti.

What is apparent is that Max, despite having his family around him, is lonely – a common trait in children’s fantasies of that period.  As a response to the brotherly betrayal in selling the story of the finding, Max understandably becomes more intimately involved in helping the soldiers escape back to the vicarage at Haworth, the Bronte’s home. He responds to their disappearance by imagining their journey and so is able to find them again as they make their return.

There’s  a sense, when Max does this, that he could change their journey but he realises that a return is in their best interest. He could remake their world if he wanted too but chooses against this – unlike Marianne who learns this a hard way in Marianne’s Dream.

Clarke’s novel echoes Phillipa Pearce’s concerns in leaving the past where it is, acknowledging it but moving on in present time.

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