Wednesday: Showalter, Woolf, Eliade, Tillich

Demeter rejoiced, for her daughter was by her side.

On a return flight from Glasgow today I read Elaine Showalter’s introduction to a new paperback edition of Mrs Dalloway. I mustn’t have read Woolf’s famous essay called Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown, for I hadn’t come across the sentences of Woolf that she quotes.

Showalter writes, “Woolf warned, readers would have to get used to ‘a season of fragments or failures.’ They would have to be patient, to tolerate the spasmodic, the obscure.’ But their patience would be rewarded, for, she predicted, ‘we are trembling on the verge of one of the great ages of English literature.'” It was surely true of Woolf’s writing, but turned out to be a spasm not an age. Soon enough we would return, not that we truly left, to the age of the nineteenth century novel, now mostly packaged in shorter and shorter bites for the consumption of weary workers seeking solace.

At home I came across another quote that made its mark. In the third of his journals, Mircea Eliade cites Paul Tillich as saying: “At whatever age one loses one’s mother, one remains an orphan forever. This is not the case with the death of the father.” I know from Tillich’s biography that he repressed his mother’s death and did not speak of her to anyone. My father refused to talk of my mother after her death, and I was, I think, ten or eleven years of age before a kindly aunt first raised the subject. Tillich biographers, Wilhelm and Marion Pauck wrote, “He sought her forever after in every Demeter or Persephone he pursued.”

Good Friday

In the Isabella Plantation, I read Mircea Eliade’s Journal I, 1945 – 1955 (translated by Mac Linscott Ricketts). Sitting on the bench in the sunshine, in this quiet woodland garden, surrounded by the first flowering of the Japanese azaleas, sensing for the first time the imminence of another summer. Where is it that Dostoevsky writes of the possibility of our realising a form of existence which one could consider “heaven” on earth? Later I looked it up, but at the time I was pleased not to have brought my mobile, and given in to the urge to follow my train of thought online. I stayed in the moment and was able to spot a Kirin, the pale, pink flower within a flower.

Mircea Eliade’s Journal is mainly a series of everyday reflections on books, artists, memories of Romania and observations on life in Paris during the post war days. They are intelligent and precise, and I’d like to read all four volumes, and perhaps his autobiography, being interested to know more about his time in Asia. If you know Eliade’s work, perhaps you could suggest what of his work is worth reading. I realise that I’ve lost interest in stories, preferring fragmented narratives, journals, works of philosophy and poetry.