Monday, February 28, 2005

Authors in exile -- from themselves

Though the latest biography of D.H. Lawrence doesn't seem like it's anything too too shocking, I was struck by the following paragraph in the review in the Independent (via A&L Daily) :

Worthen's theme - the theme of practically every literary biography that gets written these days - is deracination. Most creative writers spend the early part of their lives trying to escape from the small-scale and ultimately limiting environments in which they were born. They then find themselves stuck on a kind of spiritual pontoon bridge between old life and new, grimly aware that while the past may have given them their material it is almost impossible to revisit. For all his much advertised loathing of England and English bourgeois stupidity, Lawrence, one sometimes feels, was a classic type of deracinated Englishman, the kind of permanent exile who, in whatever foreign clime he happens to be in, preserves just enough of his origins to remain conspicuous.

Yes, no one ever really loses one's past. It's always there in the psychic background, causing interference in the revelations and choices of the present moment. I generally find Lawrence's bravery (bravado?) impressive, but it sounds like this biographer is arguing that it's a facade.


Dr. Crazy said...

The thing that strikes me about the passage that you quote is that the same could easily be said of a writer like Joyce but generally isn't. I'm not sure whether I find Lawrence's bravery/bravado entirely impressive, but to characterize what he does as somehow "false" while other modernist resistances to the past and to country are characterized as "true" seems off the mark.

11:00 AM  

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