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

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Swan in the Evening by Rosamond Lehmann (1967, with an epilogue added by the author in 1981)

"This is my last testament. What else is left that I might say? I am in my eighty-first year, so it seems more than likely that this particular stage of my journey is drawing to a close. Once the thought of living on through time without Sally was too huge, too hopeless a burden to be borne; but nowadays I seem to live partly out of time: so that that lacerating illusion we create by having to deal life out in packets of days, months, years has largely disappeared...Over the years I have been taught by Sally and by others, some of them discarnate, something of how it will be when I wake up after I have shed my body; so I look forward, I look forward. But physical bodies fight so tenaciously sometimes to hang on. I do pray that mine will let go easily. No matter how far ahead of me Sally has gone –and I know she has –she will be waiting, as she promised. She will pull me through the door."  From the Epilogue to The Swan in the Evening

Lehmann's daughter Sally, at age 24, died in 1958 while living in Jakarta with her husband.  This tragic event changed radically the thoughts and life of her mother.  Some would say it drove  her into a world of spiritualism, others would say it put her in touch with a deeper reality.  I am inclined to this view. 

1901 to 1990. England

Dusty Answers 1927

A Note in Music 1930

Invitation to the Waltz  1932

The Weather in the Streets  1936

The Ballad and the Source 1944

The Gypsey's Baby and other Stories 1946

The Echoing Grove  1953

The Swan in the Evening 1967

A Seagrape Tree 1976

The Swan in the Evening is a cross between a memoir and an account of Rosamond Lehmann's deep believe in spiritualism.  Spiritualusm, taken as the belief that the spirits remain intact after worldly death and can be communicated with by those who have the faith and ability to do so.  Spiritualusm gained strength in England because of the huge death tolls for of World War One with thousands of young men killed almost before their lives really began.  Survivors took comfort in the belief that the dead had merely transferred to another state.  Soon this became broadly felt in the wider culture.  Charlatans arose to take advantage of those in great pain and elaborate theories arose about the departed.  Lehmann from the death of her beloved daughter Sally, at age 24, felt she as often in direct communication with her daughter.  She saw her daughter as remaining in her physical condition but somehow without a body.  This belief set dominated Lehmann's life.  In a snide joke Nancy Mitford, as reported by Selina Hastings, use to laugh about Sally having a butler in the afterlife. 

Much of A Swan in the Evening deals with Lehmann's communications with her daughter.  She goes into some depth in her account of life after death and the interaction of the living with the dead.  Lehmann knew most would not taker her views seriously and she accepted that.

This is a book only those very into the work of Lehmann, as am I, will want to read.  

Mel u

1 comment:

Linda Lappin said...

thank you for posting. I have never read her work but find this very fascinating, and i will look for it now. thanks again! your blog is such a rich and eclectic literary showcase. I always learn something new and find new things to read.