Analysis / Tigana



Pasithea: [Y]ou would buy Corte's freedom, and Astibar's and Tregea's at the price of Tigana's name. Of our very existence in the world. At the cost of everything we ever had or were before Brandin came. At the price of vengeance and our pride.
Alessan: Our pride. Oh, our pride. I grew up knowing all about our pride, mother. You taught me, even more than father did. But I learned something else, later, as a man. In my exile. I learned about Astibar's pride. About Senzio's and Asoli's and Certando's. I learned how pride had ruined the Palm in the year the Tyrants came.

Pride is a big theme in the book—in particular, choosing pride even when you know that pride will hurt you in the end.
  • It was because of their pride that the people of Tigana called their rulers "princes", not "dukes" as the rest of the Palm did.
    Sandre: I know that story [of Rahal and Micaela] too. That hoary, enfeebled excuse for Tiganese arrogance. Princes of Tigana! Not Dukes, oh no. Princes! Descended of the god!
  • It was because of their pride that the people of Avalle built the towers.
    From the earliest days of that broad, elegant city on the banks of the Sperion towers had been associated with Avalle. Assertions of Tiganese pride—sheer arrogance they called it in the provinces of Corte and Chiara and Astibar. They were symbols of internecine rivalry as well—as each noble family or wealthy guild of bankers or traders or artisans thrust its own tower as high as and then higher than they could truly afford. Graceful or warlike, red stone or sandy or grey, the towers of Avalle pushed up towards Eanna’s heaven like a forest within the city walls.
  • It was because of their pride that the people of Tigana fought and died at the River Deisa rather than surrender.
    Valentin: Oh, our pride. Our terrible pride. Will they remember that most about us, do you think, after we are gone?
  • It was because of pride that Baerd shouted "Tigana! Tigana! TIGANA!" in the square when he was 15, and got the shit beat out of him for it.
  • It was because of pride that Catriana has always been aloof, even though it makes her lonely.
    But she had been a solitary child, and then solitary as a woman, drawn into an orbit of her own that took her away from others, even those who would be her friends. Devin and Alais only the latest of those who had tried. There had been others back home in the village before she left. She knew her mother had grieved for her proud solitude.
    Pride. Again.



Tigana is in good part a novel about memory: the necessity of it, in cultural terms, and the dangers that come when it is too intense. Scelto's decision at the end of the novel is a reflection of that, and so is the George Seferis passage that served as one of my epigraphs. The world today offers more than enough examples of both pitfalls: ignorance of history and its lessons, and the refusal to let the past be past.
Guy Gavriel Kay, "Afterward"

Both the importance of memory, and how remembering too much can become destructive. The premise of the book was inspired by a picture from Soviet era Czechoslovakia, in which one of the people has been photoshopped out.

    Oppression & Sexually Acting Out 

Oppression and Sexuality

The novelist Milan Kundera fed my emerging theme of oppression and survival with his musings about the relationship between conquered peoples and an unstable sexuality: what I have called "the insurrections of night." The underlying ideas, for me, had to do with how people rebel when they can't rebel, how we behave when the world has lost its bearings, how shattered self-respect can ripple through to the most intimate levels of our lives.
Guy Gavriel Kay, "Afterward"

The story plays with the idea that engaging in socially iffy sex can be a way for people to rebel and act out when they have no other way to do so. You can't fight back, and you can't speak out, but you can break a taboo. It's kind of a twisted variant of Sex Is Liberation. Or, to put it another way, subjugated people will be driven to extremes because the status quo is not working out for them.

Dianora and Baerd's relationship

Baerd: What are we doing? What have we done?
Dianora: Oh, Baerd. What has been done to us?

Dianora and Baerd's relationship took place in the year after their province was conquered, and was founded mostly out of their shared grief for the loss of their province. Their father had been killed, their mother was emotionally gone, and Naddo had left just hours before—they were incredibly alone and only had each other. Their world had been turned on it's head and they were conomically, physically, and emotionally devastated, and stripped of their Tiganese pride. It was both Sex for Solace, and a way of taking back something that brought them joy—and perhaps their right to joy at all. Also, because it's incest, to each other they are home, they are family. After their father was killed, and their mother fell into depression, this was a way to claim and cling to home and family when everything was trying to take it away.

Alienor's sexuality

Alienor's status as a Good Bad Girl in itself is already a way of claiming back power. Like with Dianora and Baerd, much has been taken from the people of the Palm, but sex is one thing it is very hard to take from them. And then there's her fondness of BDSM, which very blatantly is about power.