Thursday, July 05, 2007

"Every Parting is a Foretaste of Death"

The Soldier

Down some cold field in a world unspoken

the young men are walking together, slim and tall,

and though they laugh to one another, silence is not broken;

there is no sound however clear they call.

They are speaking together of what they loved in vain here,

but the air is too thin to carry the thing they say.

They were young and golden, but they came on pain here,

and their youth is age now, their gold is grey.

Yet their hearts are not changed, and they cry to one another,

What have they done with the lives we laid aside?

Are they young with our youth, gold with our gold, my brother?

Do they smile in the face of death, because we died?’

Down some cold field in a world uncharted

the young seek each other with questioning eyes.

They question each other, the young, the golden-hearted,

of the world that they were robbed of in their quiet paradise.

~Humbert Wolfe

I remember reading somewhere recently that some of the youth of today think they are living in the worst of times. I fear maybe they are unaware of history (or maybe it’s just a matter of thinking your own problems are worse than anyone else’s?~it's all in the perspective). I never did see the movie Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, and i can’t remember if it was something i really wanted to see or not, but i’m glad there was nothing to corrupt my reading of Louis de Bernières’ novel Corelli’s Mandolin. De Bernières writes with a lyrical wit and at the end of my reading i found my book riddled with highlighting marks.

Corelli's Mandolin is set on the idyllic Greek island of Cephallonia spanning from the early years of World War II to the mid 1990s (and though many readers seem to think the first hundred pages of this book were slow going, i found them to be a beautiful construction of the characters who will soon take over your heart and soul). Soon the island is occupied by the Italian forces and a certain Captain Corelli who starts to fall in love with the beautiful and willful Pelagia. The feeling is definitely mutual, though Pelagia is engaged to another.

De Bernières weaves together many voices to tell his story, and this book does not make for entirely easy reading. It is a very literary novel and i found myself consulting the dictionary quite often~rather unusual for me. I have been working on it for quite some time (slipping in a few other reads now and then~my neurologist has also been playing around with my migraine meds~a little chemistry experiment really, to see if maybe she can make my head stop hurting~and i think it has zapped my concentration a bit~and perhaps my attention span, and maybe i am getting even more tangential than usual, as evidenced by this whole parenthetical train of thought...). But today, a little more than halfway through, i found myself glued to the spot, unable to put it down. It's funny (or perhaps not so funny~maybe sad) how i can be reading a book set during a war and suddenly be rather surprised by the brutality and ugliness that it contains~and it seems a bit ironic that as i was reading it, just as things were at their worst, i was hearing fireworks outside, bombs bursting in air~at first i thought the imagery was miraculously powerful before i realized what day it was.

I was definitely crying at the end of this story. I sometimes wonder if we are truly crying for the characters we have come to know and love or if we are crying for some part of ourselves.

"History repeats itself, first as tragedy, and then again as tragedy."

You should read this book.

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