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The Greatest Sadness (A Commentary On "Revelations" By K. Mansfield)

There are different types of sadness. They differ in density, intensity, duration, clarity, attributed meaning and side effects.

I made one of my - almost regular - daily visits to a bench yesterday, to drink a cold sugar-free lemonade and read for a while. For this purpose I took with me a copy of the collections of short stories by Katherine Mansfield. I find her stories very old-fashionably “gendered”, a world split in two parts that have drifted far away from each other into a long distance, separated in neatness and order, equally exclusive of one another, incompatible from the first glance, each an alien, unrecognisable translation of the other..the desire for wholeness lurking far down inside the unconscious mind. In this atmosphere, or because of it, she puts together words and creates stories that bring out a unique sensitivity, a tender consideration for the pain of separation. Every story is generous in emotional simplicity, for which I am sometimes either in the mood or in great need of.

Once comfortable on the bench and after a few sips of my very refreshing drink I opened the book randomly to find one of the stories I had not yet read, “Revelations”, only 6 pages long, a perfect amount of words for the amount of sun I could take in one go on such a warm day!

When the 6 pages were over I felt devastated. The woman in the story makes a break for freedom after she realises she is trapped in a relationship where she is not being neither seen nor understood. She is trapped in a life where she feels no connection to anyone or anything around her. Before she runs away she makes one last stop, where she realises that there are more types of sadness out there which are unbearable to her by virtue of their unfamiliarity. This thought crossed her mind, so clear, so real, so devastating: “we whirl along like leaves, and nobody knows -nobody cares where we fall, in what black river we float away”.. Which type of loneliness to chose from? Is it really a choice when by definition it is not possible to bare the unbearable? I decided right there and then, in the time it took me to close the book and put it back in my bag, that there is no greater sadness in the whole universe than the belief that we have no choice.


Text by Birds WG

Photo by Birds WG

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