Monday, December 14, 2009

The mother and father of all storms. Such claps of thunder and lightning right above the house plus torrential rain. The modem and the telephone are disconnected so I went to the bookshelves in my study – it sounds very grand but there are bookshelves in two bedrooms, the office, the study, and a library - to find something to occupy myself and for some reason chose The Plays Of Oscar Wilde. I am still less than halfway through the Ellmann biography – my bedside reading a few pages at a time – but I had hoped to look at Wilde’s earlier attempts, ie., The Duchess of Padua and Vera. Alas, they are not there, just the later more famous popular works one is so familiar with. I had never though read Salome so that was something of interest. Previously my only connection with that is the Strauss opera which I have seen a couple of times and listened to on disc many a time. It’s quite amazing really to think Wilde wrote Salome in French. What we have here is the translation by Bosie. I could no more write in a second language than I could fly to the moon. I have not the gift of being a linguist I am afraid. I must admit I did get a bit bored with the number of times the moon is mentioned, important as it is symbolically. White doves come into it quite a bit as well.
I have also started to read Sophia Tolstoy’s diaries and feel this is going to be really heavy going; a book to pick up and drop as the feeling takes one. Talk about angst and Russian soul! The first entries up to the birth of her first child followed by mastitis and very sore nipples(!) No, that is not funny. The poor lady did suffer so especially, even though she wanted to farm the infant out to a wet nurse, Tolstoy insisted she breast feed it herself, sore nipples or not. Anything else in his opinion was perversion. It’s no wonder all the entries are so much the same: bored, miserable, and desperately in love with a man who seemed rather peculiar to say the least. Is this the price of genius? Despite fathering thirteen children, he obviously had no qualms about heterosexuality, it would seem that Tolstoy was basically gay! Oh, no, not another one! Will these revelations never end? His emotional life evidently was geared towards men, peasant men in particular it seems. What was Sophia to him then as at one moment he insisted she was the entire world to him and the next he couldn’t get away from her fast enough? Did he really look upon her simply as a breeder? Well, in those days women were not emancipated and were still chattels. Tolstoy was not the only man cruel to his wife. Somerset Maugham was another one deliberately cruel to the woman he married. At least Oscar never went in for deliberate cruelty unless one can say his long absences from Constance were a form of it. At least she wasn’t stuck out in the hinterland of nineteenth century Russia only coming to life as it were with the birth of each new child. I shall persevere with the book. After all I have only just started on it and there is an awful long way to go.

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