1846Сред мореплавателите има такива, които откриват нови светове, прибавят земи към земята и звезди към звездите: те са властелините, великите мъже, нетленно прекрасните. Други бълват ужас от корабните оръдия, грабят, забогатяват и затлъстяват. Други пък поемат да търсят злато и коприна под чуждо небе. Има и такива, дето ловят сьомга за чревоугодниците и треска за бедняците. Аз съм невзрачният търпелив ловец на бисери, който се гмурка в дълбочините и излиза с празни ръце и посиняло лице. Някаква гибелна съблазън ме тегли надолу към бездните на мисълта, към онази съкровена глъб, която вечно изкушава силните. Цял живот ще съзерцавам океана на изкуството, в който други плават и се сражават, и навремени за разтуха ще се гмуркам за ония никому ненужни зелени и жълти мидички. Ще си ги събирам и ще облепя с тях стените на моята колиба.
For some, Life is rich and creamy, made according to an old peasant recipe from nothing but natural products, while Art is a pallid commercial confection, consisting mainly of artificial colourings and flavourings. For others, Art is the truer thing, full, bustling and emotionally satisfying, while Life is worse than the poorest novel: devoid of narrative, peopled by bores and rogues, short on wit, long on unpleasant incidents, and leading to a painfully predictable dénouement. Adherents of the latter view tend to cite Logan Pearsall Smith: ‘People say that life is the thing; but I prefer reading.’ Candidates are advised not to use this quotation in their answers.
I must confess that in all the times I read Madame Bovary, I never noticed the heroine's rainbow eyes. Should I have? Would you? Was I perhaps too busy noticing things that Dr Starkie was missing (though what they might have been I can't for the moment think)? Put it another way: is there a perfect reader somewhere, a total reader? Does Dr Starkie's reading of Madame Bovary contain all the responses which I have when I read the book, and then add a whole lot more, so that my reading is in a way pointless? Well, I hope not. My reading might be pointless in terms of the history of literary criticism; but it's not pointless in terms of pleasure. I can't prove that lay readers enjoy books more than professional critics; but I can tell you one advantage we have over them. We can forget. Dr Starkie and her kind are cursed with memory: the books they teach and write about can never fade from their brains. They become family. Perhaps this is why some critics develop a faintly patronising tone towards their subjects. They act as if Flaubert, or Milton, or Wordsworth were some tedious old aunt in a rocking chair, who smelt of stale powder, was only interested in the past, and hadn't said anything new for years. Of course, it's her house, and everybody's living in it rent free; but even so, surely it is, well, you know…time?Whereas the common but passionate reader is allowed to forget; he can go away, be unfaithful with other writers, come back and be entranced again. Domesticity need never intrude on the relationship; it may be sporadic, but when there it is always intense.
Mariac tells us about the books he's read, the painters he's liked, the plays he's seen. He finds himself by looking in the works of others. He defines his own faith by a passionate anger against Gide the Luciferian. Reading his 'memories' is like meeting a man on a train who says, 'Don't look at me; that's misleading. If you want to know what I'm like, wait until we're in a tunnel, and then study my reflection in the window.' You wait, and look, and catch a face against a shifting background of sooty walls, cables, and sudden brickwork. The transparent shape flickers and jumps, always a few feet away. You become accustomed to its existence, you move with its movements; and though you know its presence is conditional, you feel it to be permanent. Then there is a wail from ahead, a roar and a burst of light; the face is gone for ever.
When she dies, you are not at first surprised. Part of love is preparing for death. You feel confirmed in your love when she dies. You got it right. This is part of it all.Afterward comes the madness. And then the loneliness: not the spectacular solitude you had anticipated, not the interesting martyrdom of widowhood, but just loneliness. You expect something almost geological-- vertigo in a shelving canyon -- but it's not like that; it's just misery as regular as a job. What do we doctors say? I'm deeply sorry, Mrs Blank; there will of course be a period of mourning but rest assured you will come out of it; two of these each evening, I would suggest; perhaps a new interst, Mrs Blank; can maintenance, formation dancing?; don't worry, six months will see you back on the roundabout; come and see me again any time; oh nurse, when she calls, just give her this repeat will you, no I don't need to see her, well it's not her that's dead is it, look on the bright side. What did she say her name was?And then it happens to you. There's no glory in it. Mourning is full of time; nothing but time.... you should eat stuffed sow's heart. I might yet have to fall back on this remedy. I've tried drink, but what does that do? Drink makes you drunk, that's all it's ever been able to do. Work, they say, cures everything. It doesn't; often, it doesn't even induce tiredness: the nearest you get to it is a neurotic lethargy. And there is always time. Have some more time. Take your time. Extra time. Time on your hands.Other people think you want to talk. 'Do you want to talk about Ellen?' they ask, hinting that they won't be embarrassed if you break down. Sometimes you talk, sometimes you don't; it makes little difference. The word aren't the right ones; or rather, the right words don't exist. 'Language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we long to move the stars to pity.' You talk, and you find the language of bereavement foolishly inadequate. You seem to be talking about other people's griefs. I loved her; we were happy; I miss her. She didn't love me; we were unhappy; I miss her. There is a limited choice of prayers on offer: gabble the syllables.And you do come out of it, that's true. After a year, after five. But your don't come out of it like a train coming out of a tunnel, bursting through the Downs into sunshine and that swift, rattling descent to the Channel; you come out of it as a gull comes out of an oil-slick. You are tarred and feathered for life.