When I say culture, the first thing that comes to my mind is reading, which I consider the main remedy to every mood swing or to any uncomfortable emotion. Reading is always how we learn, more than in school and more than at work, because books teach us how to value our ideas and how to think critically. What is that to be called, if not the most important quality to be a virtuous and reasoning human being?
I am a big fan of the English Literature of the 19th century and there's honestly not a precise reason for that: I think it's just pristine and magnificent, still so natural and effortless, pure and uncontaminated by the greedy and fast-forward, commercialized society of nowadays. I love it, I just love it and can't help reading anything that I bump into from the English Romanticism to the Decadentism (Wild is such a remarkable artist for instance).
What kind of sucker for English Lit hasn't read Wuthering Heights before she turned eighteen? (raises a hand shyly and really embarrassed).
Well, that's it: I had never read what I now confidently want to refer to as "THE masterpiece. I don't really know how I never came across it and I don't want to blame myself too much because I had obviously heard of it, but never dived into it. That was mostly because I was expecting one of those romantic Austen kind of novels that I know so well and that I consequently don't HAVE to read, since I've done so much of that kind of reading (I think I read all Jane Austen's books, I'm pretty addicted).
I couldn't have been more wrong: Wuthering heights is different.
It's powerful, dangerous, cruel and crude, unbelievably harsh and unexpected. It's not just a love story; the general plot you hear is "Catherine loves Heathcliff and Heathcliff loves Catherine", but there's way more than that. Love is seen as an overly strong passion, as a mind blowing and destructive explosion of negative and bleak feelings.
Their love is not pure, it's not pristine, it's just not dim or sweet... it's out of the ordinary, trenchant and scorching, it's a story of hate and revenge. And, trust me, the continuous description of the sublime but still suggestive moorish scenery does not help. I kept shivering for simply how strong this book it. I read this book in a gulp, and then I was so pleasantly yet shockingly striked by it that I read it again, because I think to get the depth of such a masterpiece you can't just read it once.
"My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff’s miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning: my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it.—My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being. So don’t talk of our separation again: it is impracticable".
This scornful and frantic words are confessed to the housekeeper Nelly by Catherine in confidence and in the name of a dated affection, but Heathcliff's words on his love are even more full of rage and desperation:
“Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living. You said I killed you--haunt me then. The murdered do haunt their murderers. I believe--I know that ghosts have wandered the earth. Be with me always--take any form--drive me mad. Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!”
And this terribly painful and ravishing, pitiable love is so strong that ends up leading to madness. Pathos and Thanatos are just unbelievably close in this passional book:
Her presence was with me: it remained while I re-filled the grave, and led me home. You may laugh, if you will; but I was sure I should see her there. I was sure she was with me, and I could not help talking to her. Having reached the Heights, I rushed eagerly to the door. It was fastened; and, I remember, that accursed Earnshaw and my wife opposed my entrance. I remember stopping to kick the breath out of him, and then hurrying upstairs, to my room and hers. I looked round impatiently—I felt her by me—I could almost see her, and yet I could not! I ought to have sweat blood then, from the anguish of my yearning—from the fervour of my supplications to have but one glimpse! I had not one. She showed herself, as she often was in life, a devil to me! And, since then, sometimes more and sometimes less, I’ve been the sport of that intolerable torture! Infernal! keeping my nerves at such a stretch that, if they had not resembled catgut, they would long ago have relaxed to the feebleness of Linton’s. When I sat in the house with Hareton, it seemed that on going out I should meet her; when I walked on the moors I should meet her coming in. When I went from home I hastened to return; she must be somewhere at the Heights, I was certain! And when I slept in her chamber—I was beaten out of that. I couldn’t lie there; for the moment I closed my eyes, she was either outside the window, or sliding back the panels, or entering the room, or even resting her darling head on the same pillow as she did when a child; and I must open my lids to see. And so I opened and closed them a hundred times a night—to be always disappointed! It racked me! I’ve often groaned aloud, till that old rascal Joseph no doubt believed that my conscience was playing the fiend inside of me. Now, since I’ve seen her, I’m pacified—a little. It was a strange way of killing: not by inches, but by fractions of hairbreadths, to beguile me with the spectre of a hope through eighteen years!
Hands down this is an unmissable masterpiece of literature, so powerful yet so passionate, so violent but deep... the book that should be in everyone's heart.
Have a good evening everyone,
Books addicted (Camilla)