Tag Archives: Graham Swift

To what extent does the past have upon the future?

I have always been interested in History, and it particularly angers me when people refer to the subject as ‘dry.’ Tell me, what can possibly be dry about History? The foundations of our countries, nations, even the world were founded generations and generations ago by our fathers, our ancestors, and built up from nothing more than ash and dust into solid brick and mortar. Monarchies have been built, empires destroyed, countries and regimes lost and democracy established. Wasn’t it said that we must know the past to understand our future? However, I have been considering for a considerable amount of time now, to what extent does the past directly make an impact on the decisions of the impending future? Of course this question can incorporate a wide variety of responses. If we were to simply ask the question in relation to a wide political and social issue such as The Holocaust or even further back to The Slave Trade, then of course the implications of those fateful days, those haunted years, have made are making an increasing amount of change on issues this current day, and will for years to come. So, in order to engage correctly with this question, you need to inject into yourself a degree of sensibility and almost dumb yourself down and ask it on a superficial note.
You see, dear, dear readers is that when it comes to the past I’ve always preferred to ignore its foreboding presence, I do not wish it to cling on in such a rapacious manner to me like a slave oppressing my constant rioting emotions. But then why am I so dedicated to learning about History, about the foundations on which our glorious, corrupted world was built upon? Graham Swift (hats off to this remarkable novelist) did once state that “often the future we dream of is built upon the dreams of a long imagined past.” In essence I agree with him, but I think a whole part of it comes down to manifesting your misguided fantasies and facing up with blinding reality, to let go of your aspirations, how cruel and cold it may seem. We can hide behind the past, if you so wish it, but Charles R. Swindoll once wrote “We cannot change our past. We can not change the fact that people act in a certain way. We can not change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.” Granted what you decide to do with your time and life is up to you, I often base my decision based upon snippets of prose and monologue I read in a novel and I do wonder to myself if it is credible to allow what some author inked down over 100 years ago to allow my actions to be as ripe today. You can let go of the past, eventually, as long as you make peace with it first only then can L.P Hartley’s famous line “the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there” (taken from The Go Between, absolutely fantastic novel, go and buy it if you haven’t already obtained a copy) come into play. I do not understand people, therefore, who hide from their past, it is only what you do with the time now that you can be judged, what we are never changes but who we are does.
I apologize that this isn’t literary criticism, if you look at who’ve I’ve quoted you could say that I am potentially scrutinizing their works, but I have nothing negative to say in particular regarding the authors that I have mentioned.
So, to close, in general, face up to your past, buy Waterland and The Go-Between and then live a peaceful and ideal existence not getting caught up in your own self-conscious dreams that might not even happen.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Literature, New Criticism, Thoughts, Uncategorized

A personal response to ‘Waterland’

If you have never heard of Graham Swift or his fantastically riveting book ‘Waterland’ you must stop what you’re doing and go and buy it, now. Seriously. I was a bit apprehensive at first, especially when a stoner recommended this novel to me (he probably made spliffs from it or something, I’m not sure I didn’t hang around to ask) but I found myself at the end of ‘Julius Caesar’ (another beautifully written play) and decided to give this novel a go not really sure what I was expecting, providing I’d never heard of Graham Swift before and I was somewhat diversifying from my classic literature (I define this from around 1520-1960’s, many inspiring works were written before of course I’m just merely summarising the bulk of literature in to these years) to a ‘new breed’ of Literature. This novel was first published in 1983 how ‘old’ you class literature is I guess up to you but I am actually begging you to read this novel.

When I enjoy a novel I usually ponder over it for a few hours and mull over it in the confines of my mind but yet, only this book and ‘The Great Gatsby’ have captivated me so much into propelling me to actually translate my thoughts into words. ‘Waterland’ is apparently best known for its setting ‘the fenland’ Swift lyrically takes us on a journey upon these mournful uncertain lands and we are submerged into his imagine. ‘Tom Crick’ a history teacher at a school in London is losing his post for reasons that will later become clear and we are sent on a voyage in to his haunting melancholy past, this quickly becomes a novel of both political history, family and personal history. I must say there is a lot of history and my respect for the subject has increased since reading this.

The prose is constantly lyrically, but yet subordinate clauses riddle their way through and loop their way back to earlier clauses and points, whilst each one maintains its own agenda, its own history within the book. The narration can be cause confusion but once you get to grips with the structure we see the overwhelming sense of powerless mankind faces when faced with reality and the concepts of morality. Needless to say this book explores the past on a level in which I have never experienced before. Not only has this but it contained one of the most though provoking lines I have ever stumbled across:

‘often the future we dream of is built upon the dreams of a long imagined past’

My God that is one of my favourite quotes, only beaten by self-conscious narratives of D.H Lawrence F.Scott Fitzgerald and Arthur Miller. Not that this book is without its faults it does sometimes lose its direction and aimlessly wander, however I compare this to Dickens and Melville, the description is lively, poignant, sometimes even beautiful. The novel forces us to look into our own lives, our own past and question our mental state. Swift forces us on an exploration of uncertainty. The uncertainty of history and of storytelling and the ultimately unfathomable nature of the motives of others. I don’t wish to give too much of this plot away, anything at all in fact I want you to pick up the book! But the chapter with the witch is certainly worth the 200 plus page wait (only spoiler you’ll be getting) it is a mystical tale filled with suspense and a shockingly heightened realism.

And the twist. The twist. I had to sit in a darkened room and almost cry.

9.8/10

If nothing I have said intrigues you just think to yourself that I have enjoyed this book too much that I actually want somebody else too as well.

P.S.  Apologies if found in my other blog I posted it there first by accident.

1 Comment

Filed under Books, British Literature, Literature, Opinions, Reviews