Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Simplicity put on...

 ...is a subtle imposture (La Rochefoucauld).

I have, once again, completed The Sun Also Rises, that novel with an oddly numinous connection to my own existence, taking greater note on this occasion of Book Three than perhaps I have ever done before. 

Written in that slender, almost diaristic style, it should not, on paper at least, be so affecting. 


For instance, there's a set of descriptions of Jake's brief stay in San Seb. His swim on La Concha, out to a raft, long before the beach was commandeered by surfers. 

As a roller came I dove, swam out under water, and came to the surface with all the chill gone. I swam out to the raft, pulled myself up, and lay on the hot planks. A boy and girl were at the other end. The girl had undone the top strap of her bathing-suit and was browning her back. The boy lay face downward on the raft and talked to her.

Again, on paper, this would seem to be a discardable interlude. Cohn has himself by then been ruthlessly discarded, yet the novel had opened with the suggestion it would be his story. 

I find these passages mesmerising, like the finest travel writing yet carrying the kind of punch that form rarely carries, because Jake is here articulating an aftermath, and all the emotion therewith is somehow cunningly camouflaged within those paragraphs. 

The way he perceives the travelling dust once he finds himself alone again in Bayonne strongly reminds me of the strangely anguished connection with the recent past I felt when I saw a tiny clump of sand on the carpet in front of the pedals in my car, having only recently returned from a truly memorable gathering in Cornwall in 2003...
At the hotel I paid the driver and gave him a tip. The car was powdered with dust. I rubbed the rod-case through the dust. It seemed the last thing that connected me with Spain and the fiesta.



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