Monday, October 24, 2022

The Tractatus of Elizabeth Bowen

Elizabeth Bowen

If you remember Wittgenstein's Tractatus  begins with proposition #1: "The world is all that is the case" and ends with proposition #7, "What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence." Telling the story of Portia, an orphan who has come to live with her half-brother, Thomas and his wife, Anna, in the tony drawing room world of l930s London, Elizabeth Bowen's The Death of the Heart might be called a Tractatus of emotion. “This lack of gout makes us have to behave with a certain amount of policy” says St. Quentin, a friend of Thomas’s wife Anna, in his parsimonious accounting of ambivalence. But here are some of Bowen's most notable ones: #1 one can suffer a convulsion of one’s entire nature and unless it makes some noise, no one notices #2 it’s not just that we are incurious, we completely lack any sense of each other’s existences, #3 if one didn’t let oneself swallow some few lies, I don’t know how one would carry the past, #4 experience means nothing until it repeats itself. Anna says about Portia, “everything she does to me is unconscious; if it were conscious it would not hurt” and she muses “she knew how foolish a person looking out of a window appears from the outside of a house—as though waiting for something that does not happen as though wanting something from the outside world.” And here is a doozie: "I don't think you ever know what is happening: you are too busy wondering what you can make of it."  For Bowen these pithy bits of observation, that at times take on the quality of puns, become a mode of disquisition, a signature style by which the writer paints her world. 

read "A-Z Quotes" by Francis Levy

and listen to "I Love You a 1000 Times" by The Platters

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