Thursday, 5 September 2013

Le Vaulmier, in the heart of the vallee du Mars

In the Cantal, summer continues, with hot sunny day, clear blue skies and warm calm evenings, although my favourite swimming pool, open-air, is now closed. Sunday was its last open day this season, and I had the pool all to myself for at least an hour, until a family came and swam. Swallows are gathering; yesterday there were flocks of young birds flying all round the house and perching on the electricity lines, presumably practising before setting off for Africa. Life in the Val du Mars is quieter, as most of the summer visitors have left, with only a few walkers enjoying the peaceful mountains and valleys. Most of the traffic is now local farmers and others going about their daily business, and other departmental numberplates are fewer.
Reading still continues, however, along with decisions as to what to say about a classic novel.
Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse has long been called a classic, but when first published in 1927, it was its modernity that drew comment. This novel, first published in 1927, was a first read for me, despite having read other books by Virginia Woolf. I had a copy with a lengthy introduction, which I skipped, and with notes at the back, ditto. Only after reading the whole work did I dip into the notes and introduction, as when originally published, neither introduction nor notes would have been available; both are products of years of interpretation by a large variety of scholars and critics, and are useful if making an in-depth study of the work. But I think it would have been written originally for entertainment; that is to make the reader think about the events, emotions, actions of the characters she wrote about, to present a different way of expressing how other lives are lived, and how other people think and feel about what is going on around them, while participating in those same events. That at least is the effect that reading this story of the Ramsay family and their guests, on two different summer days, had on me. This is a book which I will probably re-read. Alongside To the Lighthouse, I've also been reading A Writer's Diary:being extracts from the Diaries of Virginia Woolf, the one-volume edition recently republished by Persephone Books. Reading the two together certainly gave me a lot more insight into what Virginia Woolf was trying to achieve in her novels, and other writing, and the sheer hard work she did to obtain the effects she sought.

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