Fragment uit Written on the body

Weinig boeken gaan een leven lang mee. Written on the body van Jeanette Winterson lees ik nu al sinds 1992, eerst in de Nederlandse vertaling, toen in het Engels; elk jaar wel een keer, en elk jaar vind ik het nog steeds een mooi boek, iets wat weinig voorkomt. Niet veel boeken redden het zesentwintig jaar. De roman is als een heel lang gedicht waarin steeds meer ‘waarheid’ te vinden is.

Winterson houdt de toon die ze in het begin aanslaat vol, elke zin heeft een noodzakelijkheid alsof hij niet zozeer op de huid is geschreven maar erin is gekerfd. De citaten hieronder zijn de openingsalinea’s en het slot van de roman. Written on the body is een studie naar verlangen en naar de rol die het verhaal, of de taal, daarin speelt. Met die inzet zijn veel ongelukken gebeurd. Maar Winterson deed er iets magisch’ mee, alsof ze het programma van Roland Barthes, neergelegd in zijn liefdesboek, ten uitvoer bracht in fictie.

Why is the measure of love loss?
It hasn’t rained for three months. The trees are prospecting underground, sending reserves of roots into the dry ground, roots like razors to open any artery water-fat.
The grapes have withered on the vine. What should be plump and firm, resisting the touch to give itself in the mouth, is spongy and blistered. Not this year the pleasure of rolling blue grapes between finger and thumb juicing my palm with musk. Even the wasps avoid the thin brown dribble. Even the wasps this year. It was not always so.
I am thinking of a certain September: Wood pigeon Red Admiral Yellow Harvest Orange Night. You said, ‘I love you.’ Why is it that the most unoriginal thing we can say to one another is still the thing we long to hear? ‘I love you’ is always a quotation. You did not say it first and neither did I, yet when you say it and when I say it we speak like savages who have found three words and worship them. I did worship them but now I am alone on a rock hewn out of my own body.
‘I couldn’t find her Gail.’
She patted me. ‘Where did you look?’
‘All the places there were to look. She’s gone.’
‘People don’t vanish.’
‘Of course they do. She came out of the air and now she’s returned to it. Wherever she is I can’t go there.’
‘And if you could?’
‘I would. If I believed in the after-life I’d throw myself in the trout-marked river tonight.’
‘Don’t do that,’ said Gail. ‘I can’t swim.’
‘Do you think she’s dead?’
‘Do you?’
I couldn’t find her. I couldn’t even get near finding her. It’s as if Louise never existed, like a character in a book. Did I invent her?’
‘No, but you tried to,’ said Gail. ‘She wasn’t yours for the making.’
‘Don’t you think it’s strange that life, described as so rich and full, a camel-trail of adventure, should shrink to this coin-sized world? A head on one side, a story on the other. Someone you loved and what happened. That’s all there is when you dig in your pockets. The most significant thing is someone else’s face. What else is embossed on your hands but her?’
‘You still love her then?’
‘With all my heart.’
‘What will you do?’
‘What can I do? Louise once said, “It’s the clichés that cause the trouble.” What do you want me to say? That I’ll get over it? That’s right, isn’t it? Time is a great deadener.’
‘I’m sorry,’ said Gail.
‘So am I. I’d like to be able to tell her the truth.’
From the kitchen door Louise’s face. Paler, thinner, but her hair still mane-wide and the colour of blood. I put out my hand and felt her fingers, she took my fingers and put them to her mouth. The scar under the lip burned me. Am I stark mad? She’s warm.
This is where the story starts, in this threadbare room. The walls are exploding. The windows have turned into telescopes. Moon and stars are magnified in this room. The sun hangs over the mantelpiece. I stretch out my hand and reach the corners of the world. The world is bundled up in this room. Beyond the door, where the river is, where the roads are, we shall be. We can take the world with us when we go and sling the sun under your arm. Hurry now, it’s getting late. I don’t know if this is a happy ending but here we are let loose in open fields.

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