Skin your children, it’s time to see how everything changes and forgive him, sex, son Nicholas, daughter Frida, the sea and stones and Ted Hughes ran away.
The Ecstasy by Swedish writer Eileen Kollhed (1983) begins with these “seven reasons not to die” and it’s telling.
In this powerful novel featuring Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) as a fictional character and narrator, the intention was precisely to life This genius and complex poet, in contrast to her famous death by suicide.
The freedom that Colhead allows is great. She emphatically asserts that the novel cannot be read as an autobiography. This story is the outgrowth of a personal obsession born of identification with Plath: the immense struggles of women marrying, having children, and trying to keep writing. In fairness to Plath, Colehead was inspired by her scripts and letters.
The story covers the last fifteen months of Sylvia Plath: she lives with rising poet Ted Hughes in an old rectory in a rambunctious English village in Devon. Daughter Frida is two years old, son Nicholas is on the way. The family has yet to settle in the village and conquer the large garden around the house. Frustration quickly sets in with abrasive reasoning: What if the family wasn’t subject to writing? The practice of caring turns the space into a perfunctory void, the “bland and no-nonsense,” where politeness hardly emerges.
In the intense scenes, Colehead depicts writing as a space for which you have to fight. They show that some structures in the care of children appear to be stronger than the parents themselves and that isolation threatens the woman in the family: the father can become separated more easily, perhaps because of the oppressive bond that the mother can have with her child, through pregnancy, childbirth, and feeding. Hughes seems to fit the writings more easily, giving them a greater right to exist. They are the moments when he fails to see and address her as equals: husband, parent, and also the writer: “Like Ted, I also wanted to go into the attic and be important, but I knew someone had to lie here endlessly for her child.”
From this fundamentally perverted tendency grows a fundamental and very difficult relationship to motherhood. They are two contradictory stories that together form one reality. This contrast makes the novel powerful, for example in the scenes where Sylvia looks at her children with intense love and tenderness and feels that no novel can rival that. At the same time, she knows:[..] that a woman could never grow up the moment she became a mother: for then she made herself available to the universe, and then became everything, and was never herself again.
The fact that you have to fight a clerk here makes it even more complicated. Writing is an irregular and invisible process that requires a lot of reflection. There are so many doubts to overcome when you withdraw from a busy family life to spend a few hours upstairs and think quietly. It requires a lot of patience and trust in a long-term promise: not yet fulfilled, but something is coming. It is also uncertain and largely self-imposed. This makes it a tough battle to be fought against immediate and concrete tasks, a partner’s work agenda or caring for an unexpectedly ill child.
But the battle you have to fight within yourself is probably more difficult: to take that promise that something will come seriously and force space for it, not to explain a sense of urgency and then the hours spent in solitude. At the expense of continuing to evaluate something else. This writing can feel like a selfish hunger, it becomes inside trance in an empathetic way.
Furthermore, Colehead shows how motherhood also nourishes Plath’s writing. It’s a rich topic, and one of the few whose own experience I feel is an essential addition to writing on a topic. In addition to the child, a new version of yourself and with it a new writer is born. It may take some effort to reconcile the two.
in my version Small trips stutter I have also investigated the coexistence of material and pragmatic incentives (such as parenting) and the drive to shape something with one’s own hands and creativity (such as the work of a writer or architect). The main character, Julia, disappears shortly after giving birth to her daughter. The story is told from the perspective of her partner, an architect. He remembers the moments when she would write frantically and then delete everything. At some point she was thinking of devoting herself to poetry. In my version, Julia herself has no voice except in a poem he finds. In it, she writes about the fragile version of her she remained through motherhood, and how ignorance, disbelief, anxiety, and constant vigilance overwhelm her. In this only evidence of her writing, she writes about motherhood. As a mom, I’ve found a voice.
This painful thing is also lush that can take the sharp edges off it.
Discipline the writer’s soul
In the midst of all his lonely frustration, Plath clings to Colehead with one thought of comfort: “It is my weapon, so I will bear these days: I will write about it.” It has given a fatal function to all melancholy, namely, to reprimand the writer’s soul.
Thus, Sylvia’s already rotten soul is torn apart by contradictions. When you are home, you want to leave. When you’re gone, you want to go home and write. She wants to be there for others, but when she does, the irresistible urge to move returns. The word “ecstasy” contains a force of pressure in which light and darkness unite: it must create, despite the enormous weakness it causes. There is a void to be filled, a “hungry hole that eats rejection.” For everything she, mother, daughter, wife and writer wants to feel loved.
The story is driven by streams of ideas in which enumerations rush by so regularly there is sometimes no time for punctuation. Constant changes in how you feel and how you interpret situations become apparent through the seemingly unfiltered style. It is an extreme swing between hope and despair. Ideas come to a head in capitals and exclamation marks.
The sensual and earthy language gives an initial edge to her perceptions. More than once sex has a devastating effect, “my husband has sex with fear of me” and the desire to write is an animal wolf. There is something raw or burnt, black or white, everything contradictory, as she puts it: “This is how it was in my life: dying and rising again.” The language is sometimes direct and flat, perhaps vulgar, but is appropriate to the assertive voice of the narrator.
Meanwhile, Sylvia continues to send hilarious letters to her mother, Aurelia, in America. She found peace for a while in this writing, because in these letters she could “shape life.” It is no exception that she wants to disappear after a few seconds. Moments of happiness quickly return to fear of everything,”[dat je] Every day he could die of stifling chance.” This makes this novel intense to say the least.
When one of your biggest fears comes true; When Sylvia is convinced Ted is having an affair and the woman in question is on the phone, this is in her mind: ‘1. I hate him as much as I once loved him. 2. I will write about this. The story ends in London, before an uncertain move, in a guest bed with her nanny. She decides to make a list of reasons not to die for fun. The story is thus completed and Sylvia Plath as a character is given eternal life.
The novel revolves around Plath, but also transcends her own history. in trance A young mother and writer, Colehead shows the tremendous vulnerability of motherhood. Dare we say that becoming a mother is a kind of death, because the “original” has been replaced by another version. No wonder Sylvia Plath’s life and work gave her so much to hold on to. Plath wrote in the poem “Three Women” about the coming of a child: “There is no miracle worse than thisAs I mentioned about motherhood:It’s a terrible thing to be so open. It is as if your heart put on a face and entered the worldAs biographical prose became flat and dull, Colehead gratefully took Sylvia Plath’s arm.
In addition to a strong bond with an ally, Cullhed wanted to set things right. The name of Sylvia Plath still evokes the sharp association with her death—an effect that can in no way be compared to all sorts of male authors who committed suicide, and whose work remained the focus. Colehead’s intention was to bring Plath back to life as the privileged woman, mother, and writer she was. Just as the one-sided story of her amazing fatherhood is a lie, the story of her death is also one-sided.