I’ve been re-reading Julian Barnes’ paean to Flaubert. Chapter 13, Pure Story, I particularly enjoyed. Which is odd since, thank the gods, i’ve not lost my lover, best friend, partner. But Barnes’ narrator here, strikes this reader as sane, insightful— ? — well, certainly entertaining in his examination, distillation and phrasing of our experience of life, and loss.
After the death of one’s love: first madness. “And then the loneliness: not the spectacular solitude you had anticipated, not the interesting martyrdom of widowhood, but just loneliness. … Mourning is of time; nothing but time. … And there is always time. Have some more time. Take your time. Extra time. Time on your hands. … Other people think you want to talk. … Sometimes you talk, sometimes you don’t; it makes little difference. The words aren’t the right ones; or rather, the right words don’t exist.”
Despair. “After a number of events, what is there left but repetition and diminishment? Who wants to go on living? The eccentric, the religious, the artistic (sometimes); those with a false sense of their own worth. Soft cheeses collapse; firm cheeses indurate. Both go mouldy.”
“Does life improve? … When you are young, you think that the old lament the deterioration of life because this makes it easier for them to die without regret. When you are old, you become impatient with the way in which the young applaud the most insignificant improvements — the invention of some new valve or sprocket — while remaining heedless of the world’s barbarism. I don’t say things have got worse; I merely say the young wouldn’t notice if they had. The old times were good because then we were young, and ignorant of how ignorant the young can be.”
“Books are where things are explained to you; life is where things aren’t. I’m not surprised some people prefer books. Books make sense of life. The only problem is that the lives they make sense of are other people’s lives, never your own.”