Thursday, August 9, 2012

"In a strange room you must empty yourself for sleep"

Hirake Kokoro (Open Mind) by Kaori Watanabe (2007)

"In a strange room you must empty yourself for sleep. And before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are emptied for sleep, you are not. And when you are filled with sleep, you never were. I don't know what I am. I don't know if I am or not. Jewel knows he is, because he does not know that he does not know whether he is or not. He cannot empty himself for sleep because he is not what he is and he is what he is not."

Darl from As I Lay Dying by WILLIAM FAULKNER

Monday, July 30, 2012

Reading in the Dark

© Hajin Bae

"I'd switch off the light, get back in bed, and lie there, the book still open, re-imagining all I had read, the various ways the plot might unravel, the novel opening into endless possibilities in the dark."
SEAMUS DEANE: Reading in the Dark 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"To remember sometimes is a great sorrow"

"To remember sometimes is a great sorrow, but when the remembering has been done, there comes afterwards a very curious peacefulness. Because you have planted your flag on the summit of the sorrow. You have climbed it. And I notice again in the writing of this confession that there is nothing called long-ago after all. When things are summoned up, it is all present time, pure and simple. So that, much to my surprise, people I have loved are allowed to live again. What it is that allows them I don't know. I have been happy now and then in the last two weeks, the special happiness that is offered from the hand of sorrow"

Lilly from On Canaan's Side by SEBASTIAN BARRY

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

THE SEA, John Banville

The novel looked very appealing, both the title and the cover: THE SEA. But in the end it was a disappointment.

This review is very personal. My intention is to write down my impressions, my most personal and irrational ones. In my free time, I read in order to grow and this novel did not feed my heart. Okay, the style is good, so is the writer, but I do not read novels just for their form.

As regards content, I would divide it in two parts. First, there is the section of grief, loss and middle age, and then the rest which concerns women. I really dislike the protagonist of the novel and therefore I did not enjoy the novel at all because he is the only narrator in the story. The rest of characters, which are mostly women, are silenced.

I hate the protagonist because he despises all the women who he could not choose to be in his life. Especially, his daughter and his mother. And, as I see it, it is because of their physical appearance. When he is little, he is ashamed of his parents, especially of his mother.
"Had it been in my power I would have cancelled my shaming parents on the spot, would have popped them like bubbles of sea spray, my fat bare-faced mother and my father whose body might have been made of lard." 
And he is sort of repelled by his daughter because she is ugly. Beauty is love. Beauty is not a fact. Maybe it is a fact that each society has a beauty standard (for females only) by which women are measured. But, if a father loves his daughter and sees that she does not fit those beauty standards, should not that father rebel against those stupid norms that read that women should be adored on an artificial basis? Anyone not fitting them is to be laughed at. Good for that father. Disgusting.
“What age is she now, twenty-something, I am not sure. She is very bright, quite the blue-stocking. Not beautiful, however, I admitted that to myself long ago. I cannot pretend this is not a disappointment, for I had hoped that she would be another Anna. She is too tall and stark, her rusty hair is coarse and untameable and stands out around her freckled face in an unbecoming manner, and when she smiles she shows her upper gums (...) With those spindly legs and big bum, that hair, the long neck especially (...) she always makes me think, shamefacedly, of Tenniel's drawing of Alice when she has taken a nibble from the magic mushroom.Yet she is brave and makes the best of herself and the world.”
Notice that the positive qualities of her daughter are summarised in one sentence, at the beginning, and then another single sentence at the end of the paragraph. In the middle, all those long, fastidious, childish comments that reduce her to an object. A useless object, according to him.

In contrast, he deifies the Graces, indeed, he even calls them “the gods”. To make things worse, what attracts him about that family is not just their physical beauty but also their money. You know, some of us working class people have our own class-struggle epiphany in our lives, while some others grow to be adults with the shame of having been born into a humble family, although they do not admit it, their only goal in life is to ascend the society stairs, instead of dreaming of a fairer society. Anyway, going back to the protagonist of the novel, it is the same as regards his wife, he adores her, mostly highlighting her shallow beauty. Again, we do not hear her voice. Oh, yes, and her father is rich...which adds to her beauty, I'm sure...
"How proud I was to be seen with them, these divinities, for I thought of course that they were the gods, so different were they from anyone I had hitherto known. (...) My parents had not met Mr. And Mrs. Grace, nor would they. People in a proper house did not mix with them."

Regarding middle age, loss and grief, there are sentences, paragraphs and sections which are really good because the author knows how to capture the essence of a person suffering from them. But I am not satisfied with that part either since the message is very discouraging.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

BLOOMSDAY: Alfonso Zapico

Dublinés, by © Alfonso Zapico
I am mostly a reader of novels. However, for my birthday, my sister gave me a big book called Dublinés (“Dubliner”). The author is Alfonso Zapico, and his book is a graphic novel based on James Joyce's biography. If I remember correctly, that is the first graphic novel I have read; well, I am not even sure if that is the correct description for that kind of work. In any case, I treasure my days reading in the sun (in the dark, in the sun, there are moments for everything *wink-wink*) smiling and aching along the joys and misfortunes of Jim's peculiar life. Both the drawing and the text parts are thoroughly well documented and the bibliography is very solid, of course. 

© Alfonso Zapico

It is a delicious victory the way Zapico mixes Joyce's private life with the public life of his country and the world. To contextualize Joyce's work and life, the author makes no stop or pause to provide the reader with that kind of additional information. But that is his sublime success: his style is to make it flow. Instead of taking the reader aside to put that information across, the author forms a tight unity of protagonist, reader and author, Zapico himself. We are all three together in the process. This helps us forget about the artificiality of the printed page and occupy the magical land of literature.

I am not very keen on reading biographies. Especially of writers. Especially about my favourite authors. However, I have to admit that reading about James Joyce's private life is a very stimulating activity for me. Let's say that there are many aspects of his life I share with him. Like the bohemian poverty, to say the least. Before reading this wonderful Dublinés, I knew the outline of Joyce's life. After reading the book, I found out I knew more about him than I thought, since many scenes of his novels are taken from real life episodes. But the sweetest surprise from Zapico's book has been the cameos. There are the recurring encounters and mentions to WB Yeats, Samuel Beckett, Sylvia Beach, GB Shaw, V. Lenin or Carl G. Jung. I found especially amusing his relation with/to WB Yeats. At a time in which the silver-haired poet was the greatest literary thing, the gem of Irish literature, Joyce despised him.

WB Yeats VS. James Joyce © Alfonso Zapico
Some may say Joyce was totally arrogant, but what I think is that he possessed the two characteristics that are essential to a courageous human being: 1- Self-love, total trust in oneself. 2- Individuality, meaning NO God NO Nation NO King/Queen. Joyce could not stand Yeats' nationalistic and Romantic aspirations. But most of all, he loathed religion. The compulsory relation between the Irish Nation and the Catholic Church is a very problematic issue. Of course Yeats was no Catholic, and not even Maud Gonne herself could change his mind; but he was no Atheist either.

Nora threatens Jim to christen their children if he doesn't stop drinking... © Alfonso Zapico   
Going back to Joyce, I have to admit I see many points in common between Ireland and Spain. And the relation Joyce had with his country is the same I have with mine. For most of the time I totally hate it, would love to escape from it forever. And yet I cannot, I would not.
‘No matter how dreary and grey our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there tan in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home. 
(Dorothy in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz)

Virginia Woolf © Alfonso Zapico
Do I feel Spanish? Yes, I do. But I feel Spanish in the Republican way. But that is an issue that I will explore in further episodes, for instance, when I deal with Jorge Semprún in the near future, here in this blog. My Spain has no King, no God, no Nation (in the sense of superiority race), Joycean style. All individuals can control their lives without the support of any organization or institution. Love, creativity and imagination should rule our life, their roots are in Nature, like our physical bodies.

Okay, let's go back to Bloomsday! During my college years, different teachers made me believe that the names of Virginia Woolf and James Joyce went hand in hand. That they were part of the same thing, of Modernism, of British Modernism which is characterized by its elitism, as opposed to popular culture. Well, it has not been until recently, when I finished the degree, that I took to read Joyce on my own. Probably from an Irish perspective too. I took the challenge of reading Ulysses during the months prior to my first visit to Dublin. Ulysses has to be read as an exercise of freedom, of fun and of pleasure. Thank goodness it was not a compulsory reading at university. Going back to Mrs Woolf, I also love Zapico's book because he inserts real quotations from Joyce and other characters, this is related to the cameos I have previously mentioned. There was one in particular that shocked me. It was Woolf's opinion on Joyce and Ulysses. I looked up for the original quotation and here it goes. According to Woolf's diary, Ulysses is an "illiterate, underbred book ... of a self taught working man". So what's wrong with being working class? And self-taught? I am so damned proudly both things!

For many years, I had been a bit reticent towards Modernism, precisely for statements like that. At college they insisted on elitism as a core of the movement; my teachers' opinion was that was a drawback: literature was for a selected few. That is what the Bloomsbury Group represents, maybe. Every artistic movement is born as a reaction to the previous one. It is alright that Modernism was a reaction to Realism, they needed to put the stress back on the individual; but they were going from one extreme to another. No doubt Virginia Woolf felt threatened by Ulysses. Cultural and literary history has proved that her suspicions were right. Woolf did not go to University but she had a library of her own, thanks to her father. She belonged to the privileged classes. 

© Alfonso Zapico
James Joyce was not precisely famous for accumulating goods. His bohemian poverty is a well-known trademark of his. However, he did go to University. I believe in class struggle. It is such an obvious fact. But money is not a synonym of wisdom. James Joyce is my example. We still live in a world in which, as a general rule, rich people get better jobs. Because they can afford higher studies, etc., that's one reason. But a person with lots of brains and creativity but less money, has to fight harder. Is Ulysses perhaps a mediation between Realism and Modernism? Realism for the social concerns and class issues? And Modernism for the emphasis on the individual, the stream-of-consciousness, and form? Is Joyce a Postmodern? Is that what Postmodernism is all about? We reject Modernism for one thing and Realism for another and yet we mix all their features together? Well, food for thought! That idea has just popped in my mind. I'll definitely think about it...

C. Jung on Lucia and James Joyce © Alfonso Zapico
Before closing this post, I'd like to mention that I think TS Eliot does not fit in that elitist thing either, despite his office in Bloomsbury square. It is true that Ulysses is not an easy reading. But neither is “The Waste Land”. Eliot's aim was to sow his poem with symbols, with words with hidden meanings so that the reader should have to travel back in history or penetrate deeper in the contemporary context; so it is the reader's task to make the poem bloom. Because literature is life; any work of art is real, and we have to be aware of these histories being created, uncreated and recreated around us. To sum up, Eliot's poems may seem for a selected few, and probably they are, but their greatness is that he is there with us to help. He seduces us into unknown territories. He leaves a clue. We readers research, then go back to the poem. This process is repeated. 

Jim hanging out with TS Eliot and Ezra Pound...© Alfonso Zapico 
At the end, we read the poem with all the many new histories we have learned. And then we are in love with Eliot. We are wiser because he has showed us the way. In that way, he makes literature accessible to anyone, to anyone willing to accept the challenge. As I have mentioned before, Joyce's bohemian poverty is well known, and it pervaded all his life. Never had a steady job, got his fame rather late in life, eternally exiled from one country to another. James Joyce is the supreme master of the English language and one of universal literature. Art has nothing to do with money. Not the cause, not the consequence either. Was Woolf aware of that? Well, probably, since she ended up using some Joycean techniques in her own works. Virginia Woolf surely felt threatened by the Ulysses project as regards “the social privilege into which Virginia Stephen was born; as a woman writer, whose models of literary authority are far fewer than Joyce's, she is, perhaps understandably, unwilling to forgo that privilege.”(1) The fact that Joyce gives individuality to lower/working class people, a section of society that has been traditionally associated with Realism, really terrified her.

© Alfonso Zapico
This is going to be the last paragraph, so I will try to make some sense out of it all and close the circle. I adore James Joyce both objectively and subjectively. The professional reasons why I worship him are obvious, I think. Literature in English reached its climax with Ulysses: for linguistic, thematic, formalistic, stylistic and social reasons. The personal ones involve his biography and mine. I enjoy my bohemian poverty too. I acknowledge money is an obstacle most of the times. But certainly, life is not about money. Money cannot buy the most essential and important things in life. I know a great deal of people richer than me who are also much more stupid than me. Sorry, illiterate is the word. When you have (plenty of) money, life is easier so you tend to think less and less. I would never never never give away my brains and heart for all the money in the world. Alfonso Zapico's Dublinés is a magnificent, pleasant read. It is Joyce's biography in a novel form. No, it goes further than that. It is Joyce's biography told in graphic novel form. The text is concise and effective; the drawings are awesome and expressive, and very personal and beautiful, they often speak louder than the text itself. I do not like to read biographies, but reading Joyce's has been a pleasure thanks to Zapico.

Jim sums it up for me:
“When a man is born...there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets.”
― James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

  • For more information, please visit Alfonso Zapico's official website:
  • All pictures are mine but of course the copyright belongs to: © Alfonso Zapico
  • My edition of the book is this one.
  • I am afraid the book has not been translated into English yet... I hope that changes soon because Dublinés is a delightful book for both the Joycean lover and the general reader alike, no matter which nationality or language! But I do believe the English-speaking audience would especially love this work of art...


Monday, June 18, 2012

BLOOMSDAY: The Dalkey Archive

Dalkey, DBN
So, what did you do for Bloomsday? If you are a Dubliner or happened to be in the city for that day, I can imagine you just could not help being part of the ceremony. You would end up caught up in the Ulysses web one street or another. I have never been in Dublin for Bloomsday, but from what I have read on the media and the pictures I have seen of the different celebrations – some more intellectual, some more physical – it must be really exciting. Only in Ireland indeed! :) As the book lover I am, I see Dublin as Paradise. Believe me, for a Spanish book lover (and probably for most other Europeans and also Americans...) to land in Dublin any day at random feels like a child in a candy store :) I am not very sure if someday I would like to spend Bloomsday there. Will I survive the blues when I'm back to (un-literary) Barcelona? Anyway, quite unconsciously I had paved my road to Bloomsday with Joyce-related readings, so I think I have some material to add my story to that very special day for all Joyce lovers.

Last April I visited Dalkey. I am very fond of literary tourism, so the reading of Flann O'Brien's The Dalkey Archive was mandatory. And, of course, Dalkey is very much connected with both the biography and the fiction of James Joyce. Probably because of that, Mr O'Brien modeled Joyce as a character for his novel. I purchased a certain edition of the book because of its cover. It is the one you see in the picture, with Joyce in caricature style. As regards the book in itself, prior to the reading, I had read a couple of reviews which mentioned that probably The Dalkey Archive was not the best option for the new O'Brien reader. That was me. However, as I have mentioned before, there were personal reasons attached to  my choice. But now I have to agree with those reviews. On the one hand, formalistically, I could detect, experience and diagnose that the author is a fabulous writer. On the other hand, however, as regards plot, action and theme, the book did not really fulfill my expectations. There are parts which are boring, with long paragraphs dealing with religion, for instance. I am aware O’Brien is putting forward a critique on religion, especially on the Irish Catholic Church, and that for me is a great plus, but unfortunately the novel did not spark my textual desire. I am so sorry but I forgive you, Mr O’Nolan. I will meet you again, in an improved context. The technical part, however, as I have just said, is exquisite: the use of language and its poetry, the imagery… the labyrinthic sentences, just like the streets of Dalkey...

Dalkey, DBN

“(…) the whole a dazzle of mildly moving leaves, a farrago of light, colour, haze and copious air, a wonder that is quite vert, verdant, vertical, verticillate, vertiginous, in the shade of branches even vespertine.” (7)

Dalkey, DBN
I myself got lost in Dalkey. That day in April, I took the DART from Connolly (Dublin) to Sandycove & Glasthule (Sandycove).  It is very easy to explore Sandycove for the Joycean lover. You get off the station, take any street down to the sea (which you can see from the station) and once in the seafront look to your right – if we take as a point of reference the position when you get off the station. Okay, I am chaotic at giving directions so I will let these pictures show the way. So, we get off the station, take the first street down to the sea and what we see is this:

Notice the group of courageous swimmers, some on water, some on land. For the Spanish observer that scene is heroic. We exclusively associate swimming the Mediterranean with hot summer. So, as I was saying, there is a delicious walk all along the seafront up to the area of the swimmers. Past them there is the entrance to the Forty Foot. Let's make a brief stop here and evoke in our minds the first chapter of Ulysses. Then we should follow the road up to the James Joyce Tower. Enjoy the enchanting views!

Then my plan was to reach Bull Harbour, in Dalkey, walking from the Joyce Tower. In less than 10 minutes I reached my destination and got to see my first wild seal ever, so cute. We do not get that in Spain either. Once there, my idea was to get to Castle St since it was the starting point of the route I have outlined for the visit. 

Somehow Google Maps fooled me and I got tangled up in a net of residential streets with smart little houses. Oh, and do not forget the Cul-de-sacs! A Catalan expression, by the way! I thought it was French, but it is not. It is from my land. That was very poignant. I was completely lost and the Catalan element instead of feeling like home, was a total curse. There was no way out!

Bull Harbour, Dalkey
“Dalkey is a little town maybe twelve miles south of Dublin, on the shore. It is an unlikely town, huddled, quiet, pretending to be asleep. Its streets are narrow, not quite self-evident as streets (…)” (7)

Dalkey, DBN
I missed the most gorgeous things of Dalkey. I was running out of time, I had a tight schedule. I suffered the streets of Dalkey and had to cut through the map. When I could not find my place in the map, my goal was to reach Vico Road, which is featured in Flann O'Brien's novel. That did feel like home.

“Behold it. Ascend a shaded, dull, lane-like way, per iter, as it were, tenebricosum, and see it burst upon you as if a curtain had been miraculously whisked away. Yes, the Vico Road.

Good Lord!

The road itself curves gently upwards and over a low wall to the left by the footpath enchantment is spread – rocky grassland falling fast away to reach a toy-like railway far below, with beyond it the immeasurable sea, quietly moving slowly in the immense expanse of Killiney Bay.” (7)

Killiney Bay, DBN

To be continued... 


Saturday, June 9, 2012


Commemorating that it was only a year ago that I read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, today I really feel like having her in my blog. Apart from that, I also really wanted to talk about her here just to remind myself why and how I am the way I am, to celebrate myself, to give me strength and courage. It is really a profound shame that still nowadays a woman has to sort of say she is sorry for being mistress of her own mind and body. Needless to say, I never give a damn about what people think about me, of course. But I admit that sometimes, that lately, that as in this case, I can have wee moments of weakening of the spirit, mostly because these comments come from people really close to me. I am really very open to criticism and to self-criticism too, so I cannot help analysing all the comments I get, no matter how stupid. But then I turn to Plath and I know that everything is alright. With me. I am free. That is why they feel threatened. And are so jealous. 

For me, Sylvia Plath is not just the outstanding chronicler of her times and specific geography but of my own here and now as well. The Bell Jar still serves as a painfully accurate depiction of society. Things have not changed that much really. But because of that, Plath's magic has not faded, but rather, it shines even brighter in the 21st century. And the process is unstoppable. There is more and more Plath to come in the following decades (because the world will not change much; because there will be more unpublished/secret documents of/about her released...)

Before reading the novel, I was not very sure of what I was going to find there. I knew it was, up to a certain extent, autobiographical, and since we all know a lot about Plath's tragic death, I was afraid it was going to be a painful process, in the sense of being witness to the decline of a wonderful woman like her. My surprise was an overwhelming sense of personal fulfilment. Bliss. Hope. Self-love. Please, never give away your individuality in exchange for society. Be open to dialogue always but never give yourself away! The fact that her profession was that of a poetess also clouded my novelistic expectations as regards the text, fearing it would be just a narration of her life, dates, facts, etc. Nonetheless, just from the very first lines I knew it was going to be one of the novels of my life: the content challenges traditional values; the form works as content too; and if you read the novel, you will read me – the novel read me.

The novel opens with Esther in New York, where she is supposed to find her own identity, to outline her future. However, this quest turns into a failure because she develops a split personality to cope with the defeat. Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar is a critique on the role of woman in modern society. The author exposes a view of society which is split in two, just as Esther, the protagonist, is. Therefore, society is a battlefield in which male and female languages are at war and the official and eternal winner is male, since the established system is patriarchy, engendered and supported by religion; her disappointment with New York comes from that realisation. Nevertheless, Plath develops progressively a solution to male domination which is born as a response to its violence and involves a dynamic quest for a form that is unique to female. Although it is autonomous, it is rooted in male – just as the universe's principles (Budick). Despite the fact that female principles do not rule our public life, precisely because of that, female principles should reign over our private life. 

Plath's universe is sexist. Before going to New York, she is already entrapped by male language: her science teacher, her mother's insistence on her learning shorthand, Buddy Willard's double moral... Nevertheless, her claustrophobic state is heightened after her summer in New York, where she was supposed to find herself, her identity. The quest there fails too, even her most potential female model – Jay Cee – turns out to be just an agent of patriarchy, submitting herself to male language. Although she has not forged her identity yet, she ends her summer with one clear conviction: she will never serve men. And that is precisely what they taught her there: domesticity. This male domination over female is executed through violence. More precisely, Plath symbolises it with electricity. Right from the very beginning, the novel starts by mentioning the electrocution of the Rosenbergs. Patriarchy punishes. It creates a system of fear through electricity. The Rosenbergs' mention serves as foreshadowing of Esther's future decline and shock therapy as punishment for refusing submission to men, for questioning the social and moral code. 

Esther's retreat from the male language and world leads her to suicide. Plath symbolizes this retreat as going back to the womb. Only after this she could be re-born again. Plath's implication is that women ought not to just reject the male forms – in her case, the rejections include Dr Manzi, Buddy, Dr Gordon – but also to conquer them and find their own. If one only rejects them, one cannot find one's place in the world, the personal, own identity. To find hers, Esther is helped by Dr Nolan, who makes her realise that she has to find her own way and, therefore, reject any female model imposed by either male or female agents of patriarchy. Electrocution is the punishment to the Rosenbergs for their dissidence on official politics; Esther is treated with shock therapy by Dr Gordon, "a “normal” American male" (Perloff), after her suicide attempt. That attempt was the consequence of her total rejection of a world dominated by male language. Male silences dissidence with violence, by force, by imposing meaning: there is only room for one, the official. In this world dominated by male, female is only allowed to be submissive, since any attempt at self-expression or active sexuality is punished. Therefore, male violence towards non-passive females is symbolized by electricity, an energy which is sterile because it forbids the woman's control over her sexuality. As opposed to that, we find the umbilical cord. 

A Room of One's Own
If the cause of Esther's alienation, Plath diagnoses, is male language – male violence and domination – the solution she gives is, according to literary critic E. Miller Budick, a "magical thread". As opposed to electricity, which tried to control the imagination and actions of women, this thread is the energy, the umbilical cord that leads Esther out of the womb: it is her recovery from her suicide attempt. That cord is a symbol of female experience, which is fluid and constantly re-inventing. She will be reborn. And what is this thread all about? This thread is a female form, a female language, the reflection of an unique female experience. While men make use of violence to impale meaning, women offer fluidity and free-floating imagining and language, because they have control over their sexuality and freedom. The content is reflected in the formal aspects of Plath's novel: she follows a structure of flashbacks, digressions and movement to unveil her plot. Esther's biological feminism is Plath's literary feminism (Budick). Explicit reference to this thread is made when Esther remembers her skiing session with Buddy Willard. He dominates her every movement giving commands while she is struggling with the rope. The outcome is her broken leg. Once again, sex and violence go hand in hand. At this point, Esther has not yet realised the importance of finding her own form, her response to male. Another mention to that threat is related to Dr Nolan. Unlike Dr Gordon's (male) shock therapy, Nolan's (female) electricity is not violent, it is described as a thread. Once Esther is aware of the procreative power of the thread, she lifts the bell jar and re-enters the (male) world. Memory plays an important role in this process. Plath implies that memory should not be erased, no matter how painful or humiliating, but rather, it should be safely kept so as to make pain present. With our mostly painful memories present, we preserve and enhance the yearning for rebirth. The necessity of it. 

Nice idea! :)

Recent critics such as Coté have stressed the importance of reshaping Plath's legacy, of going back to the archive to (re)read Plath as a subject-in-history. Traditional criticism had wrongly associated Plath's poetry genre – confessional – with authoritarian, private meanings, that very much obscured her work, reduced it. However, nowadays recent studies like Helle's “Lessons from the Archive: Sylvia Plath and the Politics of Memory” (2005) or Hammer's “Plath's Lives” (2001) are attempts to portray the author's dissidence within Cold War America. The over-presence of sickness and illness in The Bell Jar seems to be working as a critique on a mad, corrupted world where no one is exempt from illness. 

At the end of the novel, Esther's material conditions are the same, yet her perspective has changed: she is Master of her world, she has not only conquered the world, but also re-established her relationship with men. Although Esther is now mentally cured, the world is still insane. For instance, Irwin's reaction to Esther's hemorrhage is un-human, but Esther responds to it by remembering his responsibility. Irwin gives Esther a war wound in the battle of sexes emphasizing male violence once again. The distinction of sane/mad turns out to be an illusion (e.g: when she goes volunteering at a hospital). Another feature of Plath's exquisite mind is the fact that her “feminist” response is not traditional but rather quite challenging. She defines a female form that is sexually-aggressive and rather than victimize women, she gives them the power to struggle, conquer and (pro)create their own meanings. That is very relevant in the context of Cold War America. 

So familiar...
To conclude, The Bell Jar's universe is violent because it is discriminatory towards the female sex. Plath explores how male opressess female to control women's sexuality and to serve the needs of men. To put this idea across, Plath makes use of electricity and the umbilical cord to oppose death and sterility to vital forces, life and birth. The retreat from male language can only lead to suicide, because patriarchy is a synonym of society in Western societies; but with a form uniquely female, featuring both inner creativity and a link to the world outside, women can escape domesticity and start her own private rebellion. One private rebellion may not have the power to change the world. But if we join all our private rebellions together...!

... and still am!

As a final comment, just let me add that my blog is just as free-floating as the female experience and form Plath puts forward :) Those of you who have read the novel know that James Joyce plays a very important role in it. Unfortunately, he implies negative connotations, because it marks the start of a painful process, symbolises male (... but that's an interesting topic for a post of its own!). But just as Joyce, Plath ultimately finds her own voice and place in the world. So, as I was saying, next week is Bloomsday! I won't be in Dublin that day but I may write a few lines for our Joyce!