Sunday, May 07, 2006

Et in Arcadia ego

After dawdling over Rohan Candappa's Picklehead, which I enjoyed a great deal not least because the author is a pretty much exact contemporary of mine, I have taken up Brideshead Revisited. ( Candappa was captivated at university by the TV series just as I was by the way.)

It is strange to be immersed again in the book's autumnal recollection of gilded youth, when both Charles Ryder - its narrator - and Waugh himself when he wrote it are younger than I am (or indeed than Rohan Candappa is) today.

I had forgotten quite how accomplished a writer Waugh was. From the Prologue, this:

I had played every scene in the domestic tragedy, had found the early tiffs become more frequent, the tears less affecting, the reconciliations less sweet, till they engendered a mood of aloofness and cool criticism, and the growing conviction that it was not myself but the loved one who was at fault. I caught the false notes in her voice and learned to listen for them apprehensively; I recognized the blank, resentful stare of incomprehension in her eyes, and the selfish, hard set of the corners of her mouth. I learned her, as one must learn a woman one has kept house with, day in, day out, for three and a half years; I learned her slatternly ways, the routine and mechanism of her charm, her jealousy and self-seeking, and her nervous trick with the fingers when she was lying. She was stripped of all enchantment now and I knew her for an uncongenial stranger to whom I had bound myself indissolubly in a moment of folly.

As CS Lewis noted, "We read to know we are not alone."

No comments: