And of course, if Mansfield had a recurring subject in her ‘little stories’ then that subject would have to be death, and death in all its many forms: physical, geographical, sexual, emotional, spiritual, linguistic.
One of the most resonant moments in her journal for me occurs in May 1922:
‘A queer bit of psychology: I had to disappear behind the bushes today in a hollow. That act made me feel nearer to normal health than I have for years. Nobody there; nobody wondered if I was alright, i.e. there was nothing to distinguish me, at that moment, from an ordinary human being.’
Mansfield’s honest pleasure at being ‘normal’ reveals the intense loneliness of illness. An adult life spent travelling in search of health from one rented room to another, accentuated her feelings of exile and isolation from her own kind. She talks to her journal, she writes letters, she creates fictions about people on the outside; visitors to happiness and love. So that the repetition of ‘nobody’ in this passage actually has a fragile power of its own. Mansfield rarely had ‘anybody’ there, and her elation at her temporary normality seems both humbling and practical.
Carol Ann Duffy 15 ideas!
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