Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Day Eleven: "Isis in Darkness" by Margaret Atwood

Longing. Resignation.

This story is worth the read for the last four paragraphs alone, paragraphs that are beatiful and painful and bittersweet and real. It's at the story's end, when the main character, Richard, realizes that he still has a role to play in the life of the woman he loved, a woman who was the great mystery and possibly the great love of his seemingly unfulfilled life, but a woman who never quite let him in. He decides to write about her poetry when she dies, to memorialize her in his own way. And he doesn't choose to do this for notoriety or to save his own writing career that never blossomed as hers, he embarks on this story and study of the woman to as the story says, "exist for her at last."

When Atwood begins the next to last paragraph, the reader knows that Richard had found his calling, to write about this woman he loved.

"He will have a place in her mythology after all. It will not be what he once wanted...his are humbler metaphors. He will only be the archaelogist, not part of the main story, but the one who stumbles upon it aferwards, making his way for his own obscure and battered reasons through the jungle, over the mountains, across the desert until he discovers at last the pillaged and abandoned temple...He is the one who will sift through the rubble, groping for the shape of the past. He is the one who will say it has meaning. That too is a calling, that also can be a fate."

I'm blown away by this paragraph, the fullness and frankness of it. We all have our own obscure and battered reasons to put our feelings into words. Atwood shows though that the history one gives is often an offshoot of yearning...a hope to be a part of the main story and a resolve to accept it when not.

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