Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I nodded off on the L on my way home from work yesterday while reading Thomas Hardy's The Hand of Ethelberta (1866), and my half-dreams were of the novel--but as if it had been written by Alvaro Mutis, whose Maqroll stories I had spent the weekend reading. Waking, I was amused at the ease with which the world-weariness of Mutis had infiltrated Hardy's uncharacteristically comic novel.

If you'd asked me, I would have said the two writers had nothing in common, but the dream reminded me that Hardy's more typically tragic novels do share with Maqroll a certain fatalistic vision. I was reminded of an exchange I've quoted before from a conversation that Hardy had with Princeton professor Henry Van Dyke in 1909, about Tess:

"Yes," he said gravely, "I love her best of all."

"Why, then, did you kill her? Was there no other way to end the book"

"There was no other way," he replied, still more gravely. "I did not kill her. It was fated."

Maqroll would understand, though whereas he tends to complacently accept, or even welcome, his fate, Tess is unforgettable because she rails against hers--and by vigorously opposing it, hastens its tragic arrival.

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