Monday, 3 August 2015

There are books so right they're wrong, books that belong to another era of your (reading) life, books that you read at the wrong moment, that do not fit your current sensibility, whose timbre you can register only briefly in the middle of the night, when past selves come out to play.

The Boat in the Evening, the last work of Tarjei Vesaas, is such a book. I have been reading it on and off for several weeks, unwilling to give in to it, not just because it's bare and Norwegian, austere, minimal and I bought it in what passes for summer here, this year; also because its doubts and raptures recall my adolescence. Poetic scenes with cinematic beauty, says the blurb on the back. Intense, solitary, like my adolescence. And cold.

I liked the chapter about his mother going out in a snowstorm to make music with friends. And the one on going out to watch the dance of the cranes, freezing and still, waiting and then rewarded. His absorption in the place he knows, where he's lived all his life, I like all that, I love it.
If only one could share their music and shrieking, shriek with the shrieking birds, about what one wishes to know!
The difference between this and Tess (of the d'Urbevilles) receiving the cold potato fields of Wessex into her tired brain, is the difference between misery and rapture.
They are not birds, they are ourselves when we have passed between the millstones, crossed the thorny wastes, gone through the fire, undertaken wondrous journeys and given away our heart to things unworthy of it—with the resulting humiliation unto death.
Then it happens.
Then we must dance like this. Then we clothe ourselves in the proud guise of the crane...

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