‘what is past is not dead; it is not even past. We cut ourselves off from it; we pretend to be strangers.’ ( Christa Wolf, A Model Childhood)
‘…Got family there, or will you be staying with friends?’
‘No. My parents are both dead, and my brother’s in London.’
After a time you can say quite levelly and conversationally, ‘my parents are both dead’, and yet ‘dead’ is stamped in black letters on the air, like newsprint. lightly spoken. words come back to me, from a summer afternoon, and hurt like a piece of grit sticky with melting tar.
Two children are walking barefoot up a gravelly road, a girl of ten holding her baby brother’s hand, and a woman passing with her shopping basket calls out, ‘My Peter those are smart shorts!’ Her voice, as bright as nasturtiums, and his orange-bordered new green shorts, lodge in my memory, for ever, and will probably come back to me through the mists of senility, pointlessly evoking a summer’s day, when I am slumped sightless and speechless in a viny chair in some geriatic day-room waiting to die..’
( Shena Mac Kay, The Orchard on Fire)
Any act of recollection enshrines our need for patterns, for a proof that life is not arbitrarily lived. The sudden intimacy of the narrator’s memory of childhood in The Orchard on Fire conveys the ‘caverns’ behind any polite utterances, and the unguarded seamlessness of the movement from tar/nasturtium, orange/summer’s day/vinyl/die is drenched in pathos. The pattern that the narrator recognises through her involuntary memory, exposes her life long sense of isolation and privacy. She has always felt an outsider.
Proximity may nurture hositilty in direct proportion to the love it is supposed to take for granted.’ ) Belsey, Shakespeare and the Loss of Eden)
Why is the Orchard on fire?
The Woman in Black
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