Thursday, July 5, 2012
Book 30-Women in Love (44th book)
Ironically enough, for a book entitled Women in Love the book had a lot of homoerotic undertones to it! The relationship between Birkin and his good friend Gerald had some interesting moments in it. Ultimately though, there relationship remained a close friendship and the two men took to pursuing the two sisters portrayed in the book, Gudrun and Ursula. Their individual relationships each work out two possibilities of ways of being in relationship. One: to remain complete in yourself and join in relationship to another or two: for one person to give up who they are and symbolically die at the hands of another. At times both of these ideologies seem pretentious, but by the end I realized that Birkin and Ursula's relationship (two individuals remaining complete but staying in union) remained the more attractive of the two options and the one that has been more closely in line with the person I have become in the last 10 years.
Here are some quotes from Birkin's point of view in remaining a complete individual in union with someone else:
"What I want is a strange conjunction with you" He said quietly, " not meeting and mingling-you are quite right: but an equilibrium, a pure balance of two single beings-as the stars balance each other"
"Love is a direction which excludes all other directions. It is a freedom together, if you like"
"Why should we consider ourselves, men and women, as broken fragments of one whole? It is not true."
"He says...that you can find an eternal equilibrium in marriage if you accept the unison, and still leave yourself separate, don't try to fuse"
Ursula who marries Birkin has trouble wrapping her head around this way of thinking but eventually is able to accept it when she sees what his philosophy does for him. She had experienced passion from other men but never true deep intimacy until she shares a moment with Birkin in the moonlight.
"She wished he were passionate because in passion she was at home. But this was so still and frail, as space is more frightening than force"
There was also a lot of philosophical stuff that made the existentialist in me giddy with glee. I loved the sections on what made life worth living and also on whether there was a God out there and the idea of mystic connection with God, the universe and people.
On the purpose for living:
"What do you live for?"
"One needs some one really pure single activity-I should call love a single pure activity"
"What is mankind but just one expression of the incomprehensible"
"every man was fit for his own little bit of a task"
"work and love are the two" said of the important things to relieve boredom with life.
On God and mystic connection:
"The eternal creative mystery could dispose of man, and replace him with a a finer created being"
"To have one's pulse beating direct from the mystery, this was perfection"
"I believe in something inhuman, of which love is only a little part. I believe what we must fulfil comes out of the unknown to us, and it is something infinitely more than love"
"the world is only held together by the mystic conjunction"
"Really, something, must be left to the Lord, there always is an always will be."
"We want to delude ourselves that love is the root. It isn't it is only the branches"
There is also a great deal to say about how we know things and whether knowledge is good or not. For brevity sake I will leave out the quotes that I found. I was planning on rating this book a 3 out of 5 stars until the last 30 pages of it and then I changed my mind. It has all my favorite themes in it: love, work that makes someone tick, mystic/magic connection, existential questions, what makes people great and a lot to say about good and evil. I have moved it firmly into the 4 star category but only because when I look at my other all time favorite books, it doesn't quite compete. The more I read, the pickier I get. I think this list is turning me into a snob!!! Next up? The Red and the Black by Stendhal.