Tuesday, 3 January 2012

"On Being Ill"

Writes Virginia Woolf:
Considering how common illness is, how tremendous the spritual change that it brings, how astonishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed, what wastes and deserts of the soul a slight attack of influenza brings to view, what precipices and lawns sprinkled with bright flowers a little rise of temperature reveals, what ancient and obdurate oaks are uprooted in us by the act of sickness, how we go down into the pit of death and feel the waters of annihilation close above our heads and wake thinking to find ourselves in the presence of the angels and harpers when we have a tooth out and come to the surface in the dentist's armchair and confuse his "rinse the mouth--rinse the mouth" with the greeting of the Deity stooping from the floor of Heaven to welcome us--when we think of this, as we are so frequently forced to think of it, it becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love and battle and jealousy among the prime themes of literature."
Her essays are full of this sort of thing--wonders of brilliant sentences. I can't wait to run this one by my first-year students. Classes start Thursday.


Brenda Schmidt said...

Oh, I just read that aloud and it felt amazing!

Gerald Hill said...

I corrected the typos. Try it again!

Kathleen Wall said...

And I'm lucky enough to be paid to spend an entire year with her. I spent all day Saturday reading (slowly) "The Waves," and was astounded by how she makes a whole epistemology out of fragments. So what did your first-years think?

Gerald Hill said...

Full of admiration, they were.

This aft I read her suicide note to Leonard--a powerful piece of writing of its own.