Love and Growing Old

There is a sort of sadness in being an artist, no matter how to the point your work is, it will always be perceived differently by people. At the end, the artist remains confined to the imagery that the reader conjures of him, and then fades away with time. Julie Varion is a victim of this, as she is perceived differently by every character is Lessing’s “Love Again”.

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Julie Varion is at the heart of the novel. A personality so epic, so different, that everyone is influenced by her. To an extent that the fascinations and wishes related to her itself gives the novel fuel and runs parallel to the life of its protagonist Sarah. In a sweep, Lessing does two things, creating a translucent image of a woman who we invariably fall in love with, and creating a protagonist so in love with the character that we cannot help but, sympathise. Then, again there is Stephen, and his love is so different, almost childish in the whole spectrum of things, and he is in love with an artist that has been dead for many years. He calls her his “anima”, a person that completes him. Lessing’s landscape is large and she welcomes in characters with a flourish, each with his personal struggles, and his professional ones, and in this she creates a work that can be treated both as an homage to romance, and a chronicle of growing old.

The best romances are indeed the ones which depict the impossibility of falling in love. And in this book Lessing does so with gusto. Sarah feels attraction and is courted but, her own self stops her from going the next step. The judgement of society, her own experiences, both being a weight tied to her neck. In a way she sees herself growing old and she tries to put it behind her. However, she is herself aware of her age, aware that she is growing old, that she is indeed fading away. In a way, the depiction of how Julie’s perception changes and how the reality of her fades away in the course of the novel, is a parallel to Sarah’s own perception of herself, the self-confidence in the first pages, the professionalism, the analytic mind, all fade away by the end, just leaving the essence of the person.

The reading of this novel is jerky at it’s best. It follows an uneven pace, and sometimes the authors gets lost in her own world while writing the novel. However, it provides a more complete view of the novel itself. So, when in the end Sarah looks at a child in a scene that seems more the stuff of dreams than of reality, there is an emotional connect forged, that makes us think more. Lessing creates an unsettling novel, and many would find it hard to read. But, that might partly have to do with the fact that we ourselves never want to admit that we have grown older.

And about love?
Lessing says ‘Love is merely a madness and, I tell you, deserves as well the dark house and whip as madmen do, and the reason why they are not so punished and cured is that the lunacy is so ordinary that the whippers are in love too.’

Rating – 4.2/5

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