Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Daphne" by Katherine Mansfield

"Daphne" by Katherine Mansfield (1923, 10 pages)
"But women—well, I can only speak for myself —I find the presence of women, the consciousness of women, an absolute necessity."   Katherine Mansfield
The Reading Life Katherine Mansfield Project
"Daphne" by Katherine Mansfield is one of the  stories that Mansfield (1888 to 1923-New Zealand) never finished.   It, along with fourteen other unfinished stories, was published in a collection of her work, The Dove's Nest and other Stories (edited and introduced by her husband, John Murry-1923.)
I think the unfinished stories of Mansfield are often left unread.   This is a shame as "Daphne" is a beautifully written story about a male artist traveling the islands of the South Pacific.    It has wonderful descriptions of natural beauty.     One big difference in the background of Mansfield versus most other English language writers of the period is that she experienced deeply the beauty of a tropical environment.      I think this profoundly influenced her way of looking at the world.    Much of England must have seemed ugly to Mansfield in comparison to New Zealand.      I  think we can also see this in The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.    George Sand tries to deal with this in Indiana but she had no direct experience and her descriptions lack the power of Mansfield or Rhys.    "Daphne" also seems to speak more directly about Mansfield's feelings about women than most of the other stories I have read.   This beautiful passage could almost be seen as a life credo for the author:
I'm fond of women. As a matter of fact I'm a great deal more at my ease with women than I am with men. Because I've cultivated them, I suppose. You see, it's like this with me. I've always had enough money to live on and the consequence is I have never had to mix with people more than I wished. And I've equally always had—well, I suppose you might call it a passion—for painting. Painting is far and away the most important thing in life—as I see it. But—my work's my own affair. It's the separate compartment which is me. No strangers allowed in. I haven't the smallest desire to explain what it is I'm after—or to hear other men. If people like my work I'm pleased. If they don't—well, if I was a shrugging person, I'd shrug. This sounds arrogant.
I will say "Daphne" does feel like an unfinished story.   It seems we are about to learn something about the protagonist's relationship with Daphne but then the piece just ends.   "Daphne" is a beautifully written work that seems to come from the heart of Mansfield.   It needs to be read by anyone into her work.

Mel u

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