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“I begin to draw a figure and the world is looped in it, and I myself am outside the loop; which I now join – so – and I seal up, and make entire. The world is entire, and I am outside of it, crying, ‘Oh save me, from being blown for ever outside the loop of time!’”

                          — Virginia Woolf, The Waves

I’ve been trying for a while to pinpoint what makes Virginia Woolf’s work so engaging for me. Engaging and refreshing. Her language is poetic and experimental – obviously deriving from, and to an extend shaping, the modernist tradition – but while some of her passages have an almost epiphanic effect – due to the startling clarity and progressiveness by which she approaches her themes and characters – I find much of her diction too stylized. Moreover, her settings are pastoral in a way she didn’t mean to – in the general manner of the big houses and big families of the early 20th century middle class: So far from our urban experience of almost a hundred years later.

Still, her work is exceptional, and what makes it so is her manipulation of time. It’s how a book’s-length dive into the characters’ minds (Mrs. Dalloway) covers only a day of ‘real’ time – and how this short ‘real’ time isn’t mere background, but skillfully interwoven into the story; it’s in the way distant periods of time become seamlessly connected (To the Lighthouse); or in the perpetual present of The Waves.

Virginia Woolf smashes my notion of time, which is the most conditioning and compulsion-inducing aspect of my life. When I read her prose, I get in bubbles of extended, far-stretching, plastic time, granted immunity by her work. Combined with striking sensitivity and sincerity, her mastery offers a transcendental experience, closer to the truth of the feeling she was so rigorously after.

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Tuesday, 29 September 2015 22:23
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