November 7, 2013 at 9:06 am #631paoloMember
Hi Jonathan (and everybody out there)!
I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your last novel. It was an inspiring and very informative reading. It even helped me in the writing of an essay on the future of democracy I happened to be preparing while I was reading it (talking about serendipity!). But enough with the compliments (which I could go on forever about: I like the idea of a long and winding family saga and I also loved the spin off short-story “Pentatonic”, that I’d like to translate into Italian as soon as possible).
Our multi-faceted relationship with the future, of course, is one of the book’s main strands. However, the thing that struck me the most in the novel is the recurrence of the theme of unfeasible happiness: the “unbearable sadness of naive romantic feelings being crushed by the passage of time” that you spoke about in your Guardian article “My Literary Love Affair”. In the novel’s last passages you describe Thomas’s reaction to the news about Anneke with similar words: “He could feel himself being weighed down by something dull, something creepy: some spreading, cancerous mass. The leaden sadness of it was overwhelming. It came from somewhere within him. He could feel it slowly rising up, in his gut”. The same is true for Rosamund in “The Rain Before It Falls”.
The elusiveness of happiness makes for a fascinating topic of discussion. Why do you think that happiness is elusive? Is it contingent on the human way of experiencing time? I mean, perhaps you think that ordinary life is always lethal for happiness. So that the seeming moment of happiness is just an optical illusion (it looked like happiness, but it was just a distraction from our background boredom). Or do you think that it is dependent upon good people’s universal bad luck (a sort of Murphy’s Unhappiness Law)? Or is it just a sort of essential property of happiness: something that only great music is able to capture (otherwise put: a matter of intensity – happiness, by definition, cannot last). In your depiction of Honegger’s Pastorale d’été, in fact, the elusiveness of music is compared with the elusiveness of happiness (“until it too faded into nothingness”). Or, on the contrary, do you think that humans are somehow responsible for their own unhappiness? Or, if not humans in general, modern men/women? (After all, many people think, as Don Draper in the TV series “Mad Men”, that happiness is an invention of advertising: the injunction to happiness which is the most cruel deception of our times…).
I teach a course on happiness in the coming months so I’m interested in everybody’s opinion.
Jonathan’s novels are always a great source of inspiration for me. And for you?
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