“The point is,” said Anna, as her friend came back from the telephone on the landing, “the point is, that as far as I can see, everything’s cracking up.”
Most novels, if they are successful at all, are original in the sense that they report the existence of an area of society, a type of person, not yet admitted to the general literate consciousness. The novel has become a function of the fragmented society, the fragmented consciousness. Human beings are so divided, are becoming more and more divided, and more subdivided in themselves, reflecting the world, that they reach out desperately, not knowing they do it, for information about other groups inside their own country, let alone about groups in other countries. It is a blind grasping out for their own wholeness, and the novel-report is a means towards it. Inside this country, Britain, the middle-class have no knowledge of the lives of the working-people, and vice-versa; and reports and articles and novels are sold across the frontiers, are read as if savage tribes were being investigated. Those fishermen in Scotland were a different species from the coalminers I stayed with in Yorkshire; and both come from a different world than the housing estate outside London.
George said: “No, it’s the responsibility. It’s the gap between what I believe in and what I do.”
I was filled with such a dangerous delicious intoxication that I could have walked straight off the steps into the air, climbing on the strength of my own drunkenness into the stars. And the intoxication, as I knew even then, was the recklessness of infinite possibility, of danger, the secret ugly frightening pulse of war itself, of the death that we all wanted, for each other and for ourselves.
Five lonely women going mad quietly by themselves, in spite of husband and children or rather because of them. The quality they all had: self-doubt. A guilt because they were not happy. The phrase they all used: “There must be something wrong with me.” Back in the campaign HQ I mentioned these women to the woman in charge for the afternoon. She said: “Yes, wherever I go canvassing, I get the heeby-jeebies. This country’s full of women going mad all by themselves.” A pause, then she added, with a slight aggressiveness, the other side of the self-doubt, the guilt shown by the women I’d talked to:
“Well, I used to be the same until I joined the Party and got myself a purpose in life.” I’ve been thinking about this — the truth is, these women interest me much more than the election campaign.
“How can you separate love-making off from everything else? It doesn't make sense.”
What Ella lost during those five years was the power to create through naivety.
“It seems to me like this. It’s not a terrible thing — I mean, it may be terrible, but it’s not damaging, it’s not poisoning, to do without something one wants. It’s not bad to say: My work is not what I really want, I’m capable of doing something bigger. Or I’m a person who needs love, and I’m doing without it. What’s terrible is to pretend that the second-rate is first-rate. To pretend that you don’t need love when you do; or you like your work when you know quite well you’re capable of better. It would be very bad if I said, out of guilt or something: I loved Janet’s father, when I know quite well I didn’t. Or for your mother to say: I loved Richard. Or I’m doing work I love …”
What is terrible is that after every one of the phases of my life is finished, I am left with no more than some banal commonplace that everyone knows: in this case, that women’s emotions are all still fitted for a kind of society that no longer exists. My deep emotions, my real ones, are to do with my relationship with a man. One man. But I don’t live that kind of life, and I know few women who do. So what I feel is irrelevant and silly … I am always coming to the conclusion that my real emotions are foolish, I am always having, as it were, to cancel myself out. I ought to be like a man, caring more for my work than for people; I ought to put my work first, and take men as they come, or find an ordinary comfortable man for bread and butter reasons — but I won’t do it, I can’t be like that …
(At this point, Ella detached herself from Ella, and stood to one side, watching and marvelling.)
And so this is the paradox: I, Anna, reject my own "unhealthy" art; but reject “healthy” art when I see it.
The point is that this writing is essentially impersonal. Its banality is that of impersonality.
15th September, 1954
A normal day. During the course of a discussion with John Butte and Jack I decided to leave the Party. I must now be careful not to start hating the Party in the way we do hate stages of our life we have outgrown. Noted signs of it already: moments of disliking Jack which were quite irrational. Janet as usual, no problems. Molly worried, I think with reason, over Tommy. She has a hunch he will marry his new girl. Well, her hunches usually come off. I realized that Michael had finally decided to break it off. I must pull myself together.
“Isn’t it odd, Anna? He’s been hovering between life and death. Now he’s going to live. It seems impossible he shouldn’t. But if he had died, then I suppose we’d have felt that was inevitable too?”
She was thinking: If someone cracks up, what does that mean? At what point does a person about to fall to pieces say: I’m cracking up? And if I were to crack up, what form would it take? […] Anna, Anna, I am Anna, she kept repeating; and anyway, I can’t be ill or give way, because of Janet; I could vanish from the world tomorrow, and it wouldn’t matter to anyone except to Janet. What then am I, Anna? — something that is necessary to Janet. But that’s terrible, she thought, her fear becoming worse. That’s bad for Janet. So try again: Who am I, Anna? Now she did not think of Janet, but shut her out. Instead she saw her room, long, white, subdued, with the coloured notebooks on the trestle table. She saw herself, Anna, seated on the music-stool, writing, writing; making an entry in one book, then ruling it off, or crossing it out; she saw the pages patterned with different kinds of writing; divided, bracketed, broken — she felt a swaying nausea; and then saw Tommy, not herself, standing with his lips pursed in concentration, turning the pages of her orderly notebooks.
From this point of the novel “the third,” previously Paul’s wife; then Ella’s younger alter ego formed from fantasies about Paul’s wife; then the memory of Paul; becomes Ella herself. As Ella cracks and disintegrates, she holds fast to the idea of Ella whole, healthy and happy. The link between the various “thirds” must be made very clear: the link is normality, but more than that — conventionality, attitudes or emotions proper to the “respectable” life which in fact Ella refuses to have anything to do with.
“I'm going to make the obvious point that perhaps the word neurotic means the condition of being highly conscious and developed. The essence of neurosis is conflict. But the essence of living now, fully, not blocking off to what goes on, is conflict. In fact I've reached the stage where I look at people and say—he or she, they are whole at all because they've chosen to block off at this stage or that. People stay sane by blocking off, by limiting themselves.”
“But now I can feel. I’m open to everything. But no sooner do you accomplish that, than you say quickly — put it away, put the pain away where it can’t hurt, turn it into a story or into history. But I don’t want to put it away. Yes, I know what you want me to say — that because I’ve rescued so much private pain-material — because I’m damned if I’ll call it anything else, and ‘worked through it’ and accepted it and made it general, because of that I’m free and strong. Well all right, I’ll accept it and say it. And what now? I’m tired of the wolves and the castle and the forests and the priests. I can cope with them in any form they choose to present themselves. But I’ve told you, I want to walk off, by myself, Anna Freeman.”
It occurs to me that what is happening is a breakdown of me, Anna, and this is how I am becoming aware of it. For words are form, and if I am at a pitch where shape, form, expression are nothing, then I am nothing, for it has become clear to me, reading the notebooks, that I remain Anna because of a certain kind of intelligence. This intelligence is dissolving and I am very frightened.
He smiled, as dry as she, and said: “Yes, I know what you mean, but all the same it's true. Do you know what people really want? Everyone, I mean. Everybody in the world is thinking: I wish there was just one other person I could really talk to, who could really understand me, who'd be kind to me. That’s what people really want, if they're telling the truth.”
Very few people really care about freedom, about liberty, about the truth, very few. Very few people have guts, the kind of guts on which a real democracy has to depend. Without people with that sort of guts a free society dies or cannot be born.
Then I remembered that when I read my notebooks I didn’t recognize myself. Something strange happens when one writes about oneself. That is, one’s self direct, not one’s self projected. The result is cold, pitiless, judging. […] If Saul said, about his diaries, or, summing his younger self up from his later self: I was a swine, the way I treated women. Or: I’m right to treat women the way I do. Or: I’m simply writing a record of what happened, I’m not making moral judgements about myself — well, whatever he said, it would be irrelevant. Because what is left out of his diaries is vitality, life, charm. “Willi allowed his spectacles to glitter across the room and said …” “Saul, standing foursquare and solid, grinning slightly — grinning derisively at his own seducer’s pose, drawled: Come’n baby, let’s fuck, I like your style.” I went on reading entries, first appalled by the cold ruthlessness of them; then translating them, from knowing Saul, into life. So I found myself continually shifting mood, from anger, a woman’s anger, into the delight one feels at whatever is alive, the delight of recognition.
“What's wrong with you?” he said. He came over, knelt beside me, turned my face to his, and said: “For Christ sake's, you must understand sex isn't important to me, it just isn't important.”
I said: “You mean sex is important but who you have it with isn't.”
Whoever he be who looks in this
He shall be cursed.
That is my wish.
Saul Green, his book. (!!!)
Still asleep, I read the words off a page I had written: That was about courage, but not the sort of courage I have ever understood. It's a small painful sort of courage which is at the root of every life, because injustice and cruelty is at the root of life. And the reason why I have only given my attention to the heroic or the beautiful or the intelligent is because I won't accept that injustice and the cruelty and so won't accept the small endurance that is bigger than anything.
“Write down: The two women were alone in the London flat.” […] “On a dry hillside in Algeria, the soldier watched the moonlight glinting on his rifle.”