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Love, Again

Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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      Love, Again
Doris Lessing

A fierce, compelling account of the nature and origins of love from Doris Lessing, one of the most acclaimed writers of the twentieth century and winner of the Nobel Pize for Literature 2007.Sarah Durham, sixty-year-old producer and founder of a leading fringe theatre company, commissions a play based on the journals of Julie Vairon, a beautiful, wayward nineteenth-century mulatto woman. It captivates all who come into contact with it, and dramatically changes the lives of all those who take part in it. For Sarah the changes are profound – she falls in love with two younger men, causing her to relive her own stages of growing up, from immature and infantile with the beautiful and androgynous Bill, to a mature love with Henry.

Love, Again

Doris Lessing

One had a lovely face

And two or three had charm,

But charm and face were in vain

Because the mountain grass

Cannot but keep the form

Where the mountain hare has lain.

W. B. YEATS, Memory

I’m falling in love again, Never wanted to…

Table of Contents

Cover Page (#u13e63bdf-33f0-57ac-a524-459f9b8d6720)

Title Page (#u0fa44c5d-4b95-5443-9857-21a3134785fc)

Epigraph (#u350622dd-1977-595c-a96d-03368697c1ec)

Chapter 1 (#u772587e1-be58-5b9d-83b1-3b2856971192)

Acknowledgements (#litres_trial_promo)

Doris Lessing (#litres_trial_promo)

Praise (#litres_trial_promo)

By the same author (#litres_trial_promo)

Read on (#litres_trial_promo)

The Grass is Singing (#litres_trial_promo)

The Golden Notebooka (#litres_trial_promo)

The Good Terrorist (#litres_trial_promo)

The Fifth Child (#litres_trial_promo)

Copyright (#litres_trial_promo)

About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo)

EASY TO THINK (#ulink_679edf8b-11a9-5645-ad68-4525c4180f87) this was a junkroom, silent and airless in a warm dusk, but then a shadow moved, someone emerged from it to pull back curtains and throw open windows. It was a woman, who now stepped quickly to a door and went out, leaving it open. The room thus revealed was certainly over-full. Along one wall were all the evidences of technical evolution – a fax machine, a copy machine, a word processor, telephones – but as for the rest, the place could easily be some kind of theatrical storeroom, with a gold bust of some Roman female, much larger than life, masks, a crimson velvet curtain, posters, and piles of sheet music, or rather photocopies that had faithfully reproduced yellowing and crumbling originals.

On the wall over the word processor was a large reproduction of Cézanne’s Mardi Gras, also the worse for wear: it had been torn across and put together with sellotape.

The woman next door was energetically attending to something: objects were being moved about. Then she reappeared and stood looking in at the room.

Not a young woman, as it had been easy to imagine from the vigour of her movements when still half seen in the shadows. A woman of a certain age, as the French put it, or even a bit older, and not dressed to present herself, but wearing old trousers and shirt.

This woman was alert, full of energy, yet she did not seem pleased with what she looked at. However, she shook all that off and went to her processor, sat down, put out a hand to switch on a tape. At once the room was filled with the voice of the Countess Dié, from eight centuries ago (or a voice able to persuade the listener she was the Countess), singing her timeless plaints:

I must sing, whether I will or not:

I feel so much pain over him whose friend I hold myself,

For I love him more than anything that is…

The modern woman, sitting with her hands ready to attack the keys, was conscious she felt superior to this long-ago sister, not to say condemning. She did not like this in herself. Was she getting intolerant?

Yesterday Mary had rung from the theatre to say that Patrick was in emotional disarray because he had fallen in love again, and she had responded with a sharp comment.

‘Now, come on, Sarah,’ Mary had rebuked her.

Then Sarah had agreed, and laughed at herself.

Feeling disquiet, however. There seems to be a rule that what you condemn will turn up sooner or later, to be lived through. Forced to eat your vomit – yes, Sarah knew this well enough. Somewhere in her past she had made a note: Beware of condemning other people, or watch out for yourself.

The Countess Dié was too disturbing, and Sarah switched the plaint off.

Silence. She sat breathing it in. She was altogether too much affected by this old troubadour and trouvère music. She had been listening to little else for days, to set the tone of what she had to write. Not only the Countess, but Bernard de Ventadorn, Pierre Vidal, Giraut de Bornelh, and other old singers, had put her into a state of…she was restless, and she was feverish. When had music affected her like this before? She did not think it had. Wait, though. Once she had listened to jazz, particularly the blues, it seemed day and night, for months. But that was when her husband died, and the music had fed her melancholy. But she did not remember…yes, first she had been grief-ridden, and then she had chosen music to fit her state. But this was a different matter altogether.

Her task this evening was not a difficult one. The programme notes were too stiff in tone: this was because, writing them, she had been afraid of being over-charmed by the subject. And she was being charmed by the sensuous voice of the Countess – or the young woman Alicia de la Haye.

She did not have to do the programme notes now. In fact she had made a rule for herself not to work in the evenings at home: a rule she had not been keeping recently. To spell it out, she had not been keeping her own prescriptions for balance and good mental health.

She sat listening to silence. A sparrow chirped.

She thought, I’ll look up that Provençal poem by Pound; that’s hardly work after all.

The desk was stacked with reference books, files of cuttings, and on one side of it bookshelves rose to the ceiling. A book lay open on one side of the word processor.

Growing old gracefully…the way has been signposted. One might say the instructions are in an invisible script which becomes slowly legible as life exposes it. Then the appropriate words only have to be spoken. On the whole the old don’t do badly. Pride is a great thing, and the necessary stances and stoicisms are made easy because the young do not know – it is hidden from them – that the flesh withers around an unchanged core. The old share with each other ironies appropriate to ghosts at a feast, seen by each other but not by the guests whose antics and posturings they watch, smiling, remembering.

To this set of placid sentences full of self-respect most people getting old would subscribe, feeling well presented and even defended by them.

Yes, I’ll go along with that, thought Sarah. Sarah Durham. A good sensible name for a sensible woman.

The book where she had found these sentences had been on a trestle in a street market, the memoirs of a society woman once known for her beauty, written in old age and published when she was nearly a hundred, twenty years ago. A strange thing, Sarah thought, that she had picked the book up. Once, she would never have even opened a book by an old person: nothing to do with her, she would have felt. But what could be odder than the way that books which chime with one’s condition or stage in life insinuate themselves into one’s hand?

She pushed away that book, thought Pound’s verses could wait, and decided to enjoy an evening when nothing at all would be expected of her. An evening in April, and it was still light. This room was calm, usually calming, and like the other three rooms in this flat held thirty years of memories. Rooms a long time lived in can be like littered sea shores; hard to know where this or that bit of debris has come from.

She knew exactly where the bits of theatrical junk had originated: which play, or what actor. But on the window sill was a bowl of coloured pebbles she had picked up outside a village in Provence where she had gone walking with her two children, then aged twelve and thirteen. What was the name of that village? She had been several times to that region, and she had always picked up stones to take home. Strings of beads in all shades of red were pinned in a fan shape on a board that filled a good part of a wall. Why had she kept the thing? Piles of books on the theatre climbed the walls: she had not opened some of them for years. And there was the poster of Mardi Gras. He had been eye to eye with her for decades, that arrogantly sexy youth in the red and black diamond pattern costume with his touch-me-not look. He was like her own son – well, yes, that had been a long time ago, and George was now an almost middle-aged scientist. These days, when she did look at it (after all, one doesn’t much look at what is on one’s walls), her eyes went to the uncertain youth with his dark thoughtful eyes in the ill-fitting Pierrot dress. Her daughter, aged fifteen, had demanded a Pierrot costume, and she, Cathie’s mother, had known it was a statement. I am like him. I need a disguise. I wish I were not unsure but like the Harlequin, who knows how beautiful he is. There was nothing unsure about Cathie these days, a successful matron, with children, a job, a satisfactory husband.

Sarah knew she saw the picture as portraits of her own children. Why did she keep it there? Parents often secretly cherish photographs of their offspring that have nothing to do with their present ages, and these are not always appealingly helpless infants.

She should get rid of all this rubbish…and now, suddenly, she sat up straight in her chair and then stood and began a prowl around the room. This was not the first time she had had the thought. Years ago, she had looked around this room, full of things that had come to rest there for some reason or another and thought, I must get rid of it all.

The poster was there because her daughter Cathie had brought it home. It had nothing to do with her, Sarah. What could she say was hers? The books, the reference books: her working necessities. And the rest of her home? An extended prowl then, repeated now, took her past dishes of shells collected by the children decades ago, a cupboard that still had their old clothes in it, postcards, stuck on a cork board, from people on holiday. Her clothes? Could she say that these were here because she had chosen them? Well, yes, but fashion had dictated them.

On that evening years ago, she had come to the unsettling conclusion that very little in these four large rooms was here because of some considered choice of hers. A choice from that part of her she thought of as herself. No, and she had decided to go through the rooms and throw everything out…well, almost everything: here was something that would stay if everything else found itself bagged up for the dustbins. It was a real photograph, which took itself seriously. A pleasant man, a bit worried perhaps, or tired? – a net of fine lines around frank and comradely blue eyes, and with grey in his fair hair (whose soft silkiness she could feel in her fingers), which was probably the first sign of a heart attack that was to strike him down so young, at forty. He sat with his arms around two children, boy and girl, aged eight and nine. The three of them were smiling at Sarah. The photograph was in a silver frame, art deco, not Sarah’s taste, but it had been given to her by her husband who had had it from his mother. Should she throw out the frame because she had never liked it?

Why hadn’t she made a clean sweep? It was because she had been too busy. Some new play, probably. She had always worked so hard.

Sarah came to a stop in front of a mirror. She looked at a handsome apparently middle-aged woman with a trim body. Her hair, always in tight smooth bands for convenience – she could not be bothered with hairdressers – was described as fair on her passport, but it was more a dull yellow, like neglected brass. Surely by now she ought to have at least the odd grey hair? But that shade often does not go grey or white, at least not until real old age. Young, its possessors yearn for lively colour and might dye it, and when older gratefully leave it alone and are accused of dyeing it. She did not often look in the mirror: she was not anxious about her looks. Why should she be? She was often thought twenty years younger than her real age. In another mirror, through the open door to her bedroom, she seemed even less her age. She could see the reflection by twisting herself about. Her back was erect and full of vitality. Her osteopath, when treating her for back trouble (it did seem to be making itself felt these days), enquired if she had been a dancer. The two mirrors were there because decades ago her husband had said, ‘Sarah, these rooms are too dark. Can’t we get some light into them?’ The walls were painted bright white, but they had dimmed, and the curtains had been white, were now dark cream. When the sun shone in, the room filled with light, shadow, and moving reflections, a place of suggestion and possibilities. Without sun, the mirrors showed furniture that stood about in a still light like water. A pearly light. Restful. She liked these rooms, could not think of anything worse than having to leave them. They could be criticized for being shabby. Her brother said they were, but she thought his house smart and awful. Nothing had been changed here for years. The rooms gently dimmed into acceptance: of her being so busy always, and of her being, at heart, not much interested, and of the way the years accumulated, leaving deposits, books and photographs, postcards and things from the theatre.
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